AboutZoos, Since 2008


The National Ele­phant Cen­ter (FL, USA) wel­comes first elephants

pub­lished 26 Octo­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 26 July 2014

Pachy­derms have returned to the trea­sure coast for the first time since the end of the Ice Age. This week The National Ele­phant Center’s board mem­bers and staff proudly wel­comed four African ele­phants to Fellsmere. The fam­ily group, con­sist­ing of two females and two males, are the pro­fes­sional ele­phant care facility’s first res­i­dents. The Center’s mis­sion is focused on advanc­ing the care of ele­phants in North America.

National ElephantCenter site“We’re thrilled to wel­come the first ele­phants to The National Ele­phant Cen­ter,” said Keith Win­sten, The Center’s board chair and exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Bre­vard Zoo. “We’ll pro­vide these ani­mals and those that arrive in the future with the high­est qual­ity of ani­mal care, inspired by our deep love of elephants.”

The Asso­ci­a­tion of Zoos and Aquar­i­ums’ Ele­phant Species Sur­vival Pro­gram (SSP) sup­ported the ani­mals’ move to The Cen­ter. Ele­phants are endan­gered species — accord­ing to the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species the African ele­phant (Lox­odonta africana) is con­sid­ered Vul­ner­a­ble and the Asian ele­phant (Ele­phas max­imus) is Endan­gered. There­fore the SSP care­fully man­ages the pop­u­la­tion in accred­ited North Amer­i­can zoos to ensure indi­vid­u­als are part of healthy social group­ings and to safe­guard their health and well-​being. Pre­vi­ously the four ani­mals lived at an AZA-​accredited facil­ity in cen­tral Florida.

As many as five more ele­phants could join the herd as the barn has capac­ity for nine ani­mals though no addi­tional ele­phants are con­firmed. The Cen­ter could some day care for dozens of ele­phants as addi­tional barns and habi­tats are com­pleted on the 225-​acre ( 90 hectare) site. The first phase of devel­op­ment saw the com­ple­tion of a large barn with pad­docks, a keeper work cen­ter and four inter­con­nected pas­tures that pro­vide the ele­phants more than 20 acres ( 8 hectare) to roam. Each pas­ture includes water­ing holes, mud wal­lows, dust bathing areas, shade and other nat­ural fea­tures used by elephants.

Florida’s ancient his­tory with pachy­derms
The new ele­phants aren’t the first pachy­derms to call the area home. In 2011 researchers from the Smith­son­ian Insti­tute and the Uni­ver­sity of Florida announced the dis­cov­ery of a bone frag­ment found to be 13,000 years old. The bone fea­tures an incised image of a mam­moth or mastodon — the first of its kind found in the Amer­i­cas. Dis­cov­ered by a fos­sil hunter in Vero Beach, the bone was found near a loca­tion known as the “Old Vero Site” where human bones and extinct Ice Age ani­mals were exca­vated begin­ning one hun­dred years ago.

Mam­moths and mastodons once roamed through­out North Amer­ica includ­ing Florida, serv­ing the same eco­log­i­cal niche as their mod­ern day African and Asian coun­ter­parts. Though once wide­spread, a chang­ing cli­mate and grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of humans who hunted the ani­mals erad­i­cated the species from the con­ti­nent not long after the engrav­ing would have been made.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to think pre­his­toric pachy­derms once roamed here before and look­ing at the land­scape it’s easy to see why. We chose to build The Cen­ter here for the same rea­sons the mam­moths selected this spot 13,000 years ago — ele­phants love flat grassy areas.
(John Lehn­hardt, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of The National Ele­phant Center)

Closed facil­i­ties but engag­ing with the pub­lic
Though not open to the pub­lic, The Center’s plans to develop oppor­tu­ni­ties for local school chil­dren to visit and learn about ele­phants, which are crit­i­cally endan­gered. Lim­ited oppor­tu­ni­ties for donors and mem­bers of the pub­lic to visit at select times are also in development.

“We’re extremely proud of The National Ele­phant Cen­ter and the care we pro­vide. We want to share our love of ele­phants with the com­mu­nity and help fos­ter greater appre­ci­a­tion for these incred­i­ble ani­mals,” said Lehn­hardt. “We encour­age every­one to fol­low updates on our blog and stay updated to learn more about how you can sup­port ele­phant care.”

About The National Ele­phant Cen­ter
A col­lab­o­ra­tive effort from more than 70 AZA-​accredited zoos that care for ele­phants, The National Ele­phant Cen­ter is a new model sup­port­ing excel­lence in ele­phant care. The Center’s mis­sion is to improve the ele­phant population’s long-​term via­bil­ity and wel­fare by pro­mot­ing excel­lence in ele­phant care and man­age­ment. To accom­plish this The Cen­ter col­lab­o­rates with AZA-​accredited zoos and other pro­fes­sional ele­phant organ­i­sa­tions, experts and advo­cates; brings a sci­en­tific approach to hus­bandry research, pro­fes­sional train­ing and ele­phant repro­duc­tion; and always pro­vides excep­tional care inspired by a deep com­mit­ment to the future of ele­phants. The Cen­ter is located on a 225-​acre ( 90 hectare) site near the Blue Cypress Con­ser­va­tion Area. The land cur­rently sup­ports a cit­rus grove and is sur­rounded by farm­land. More infor­ma­tion: here.

A good follow-​up read­ing has recently been pub­lished by Asso­ci­ated Press, ‘4 ele­phants call for­mer cit­rus farm home’.

(Source: The National Ele­phant Cen­ter press release, 17.05.2013)

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