Utah’s Hogle Zoo pauses elephant care to maximize reproduction opportunities

May 2, 2023, 3:38 PM

Zuri is pictured on the left and Christie is on the right side. (Photo credit: Utah's Hogle Zoo)...

Zuri is pictured on the left and Christie is on the right side. (Photo credit: Utah's Hogle Zoo)

(Photo credit: Utah's Hogle Zoo)

SALT LAKE CITY —  Christie and Zuri, the elephants at Utah’s Hogle Zoo, will soon be saying goodbye to Utah. They will be relocated for a better opportunity to continue their multigenerational herd. The news will pause the zoo’s continuous care of elephants which dates back more than 100 years. 

The decision came after the zoo’s evaluation of the current habitat of Christie, 36, and daughter Zuri, 13.

Utah’s Hogle Zoo CEO, Doug Lund, said moving the elephants will give them a better chance at birthing a calf. Although the zoo’s nationally-recognized elephant care team trained Zuri for voluntary artificial insemination, she has not become pregnant. And to bring a male counterpart to Utah would take years of expanding the current living space for the elephants. 

According to a release from the zoo, by the time an expansion would be complete, Zuri could lose her prime reproductive window. 

Where are the elephants going?

The two elephants will be moved to another Association of Zoos and Aquarium, AZA, accredited zoo. Since 1979, the Hogle Zoo has been AZA credited. 

Fewer than 10% of zoos across the nations have this credential. 

“As a committed partner to the AZA Species Survival Plan, we often receive and move animals between accredited zoos for genetically diverse breeding purposes, like the move of Amur leopard male, Skye, last September,” said Lund.

The Hogle Zoo is coordinating with the AZA African Elephant Species Survival Plan to find the best fit and to allow Christie and Zuri to thrive together. Furthermore, the animal care team is working with both elephants to prepare them for transport to their new location. 

In a press release, Dan Ashe, president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, assured the public that this decision is best for the wellbeing of both elephants. 

And Ashe praised the zoo for making the decision to put the elephant’s best interest above all else. 

“The Hogle Zoo community should be proud of the courageous leadership the zoo is showing in making this difficult choice,” Ashe said. 

The release said the transition will likely take place this upcoming fall. 

This news comes at a vital time as the world’s African elephant population has declined from 1.1 million in the 1970s to around 450,000 today. An estimated 100 elephants are killed every day, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums said. 

History of elephants in Utah

Princess Alice, named after President Roosevelt’s daughter Alice, was the first elephant to live in Utah. She arrived in 1916 and lived at what used to be a zoo located in Liberty Park.

She was an Asian elephant born in 1884. Princess Alice died in 1953.

Her journey to Utah began when the children of Salt Lake joined forces to purchase her from the Sells Floto Circus

According to the SLC History webpage, Princess Alice would escape and wander the streets of Salt Lake City.

Due to her frequent escapes, Alice moved from the park zoo to what is now known as Utah’s Hogle Zoo in 1931. She remained at the Hozle Zoo for the rest of her life. 

During her time there, she birthed four offspring: Baby Hutch, Baby Tambon, Little Miracle, and Prince Utah, according to the Elephant encyclopedia and database


Princess Alice (Photo credit: Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Princess Alice and one of her babies. (Photo credit: Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah)

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Utah’s Hogle Zoo pauses elephant care to maximize reproduction opportunities