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Tulsa Zoo to Welcome Two New Asian Elephants Into Herd

Tulsa Zoo soon will welcome two new Asian elephant herd members. Hank and Connie are relocating from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to the new Elephant Preserve Barn later this summer. 

“For 70 years the Tulsa Zoo has been dedicated to providing excellent care for Asian elephants at all stages of life,” said Tulsa Zoo Vice President of Animal Conservation and Science Joe Barkowski. “We’re proud to continue this legacy of excellence as we commit to caring for Asian elephants both in Tulsa and through supporting conservation programs around the globe.” 

Hank is recognizable as one of the largest male Asian elephants in professional care in North America. He is known for being laidback, patient and getting along well with other elephants. Connie is introverted and gets along particularly well with male elephants.

Their move follows a recommendation from the Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan®, managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help keep elephants in North American zoos genetically diverse. Male elephants commonly move between herds in their native ranges; zoos collaborate to replicate this natural behavior. The decision to move Hank is also part of a larger AZA effort to ensure elephants thrive in professional care and are around for future generations, supporting the overall survival of the species. Because Connie is so closely bonded with Hank, the elephant care teams at both zoos agree keeping them together is in their best interest.

Both elephants will complete a quarantine in the new Elephant Preserve Barn before joining the existing herd, which includes male Sneezy and females Sooky and Booper. 

“We’ve toured the new Elephant Preserve Barn at the Tulsa Zoo and are impressed at the attention to detail that went into designing the facility,” said Adam Felts, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Senior Curator and Director of Animal Wellbeing. “We are confident their dedicated staff and commitment to providing excellent animal care make them the ideal location for Hank and Connie. We look forward to seeing the amazing work our team started being continued at the Tulsa Zoo.” 

The 36,650-square-foot Elephant Preserve Barn is part of the Oxley Family Elephant Experience and Elephant Preserve. When the 10-acre preserve yard and redesigned interpretive complex open, AZA-accredited Tulsa Zoo will be home to one of the largest habitats for Asian elephants in North America.   

“Meeting an Asian elephant named Gunda here at your Tulsa Zoo set my career path. I’m proud of our zoo’s commitment to provide the best possible wellbeing for the species we have the privilege to care for and to teach future generations that real change is possible,” said Tulsa Zoo President/CEO Lindsay Hutchison. “I want to say thank you. Ongoing support from the city, our donors and our community has made this possible.”   

Tulsa Zoo is waiting to share details until after Hank and Connie have arrived. Watch social media and for additional updates after the successful transfer has occurred. 

The Tulsa Zoo is proud to be one of the first 11 zoos to earn AZA accreditation in 1976. AZA accreditation occurs every five years and affirms a commitment to the highest standards in animal care and conservation. Earning accreditation requires a meticulous inspection process where independent zoological professionals assess all aspects of operations, from animal welfare and veterinary care to educational programs and conservation efforts. Tulsa Zoo earned its most recent accreditation in 2023.  

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