After years in Alabama, zoo elephant will journey to breed
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An elephant who has spent nearly a decade at the Birmingham Zoo is headed off to breed.
Callee, an 18-year-old African elephant, is leaving the Trails of Africa exhibit after eight years to join a breeding herd at another zoo and start a family of his own. The move is expected sometime this summer, and zoo officials have not yet released where Callee is going or an exact date of the move.
Dr. Stephanie Slade, Vice President of Living Collections at the Birmingham Zoo, said the move is similar to the natural process in the wild where elephants leave their bachelor herd for a breeding herd after spending several years learning from older males. Slade said Callee has learned from the zoo’s 38-year-old African elephant Bulwagi during his time in Birmingham and is ready for the transition.
The move is “a natural step in his maturation, as bulls typically move out of their matriarchal herds and into bachelor groups between the ages of 7-10,” Slade said. “In the wild, male African elephants spend time around larger, stronger, and more experienced bulls before venturing into breeding herds. Callee will be paired with multiple genetically valuable female elephants with a (Species Survival Plan) recommendation to aid in the expansion of the population,” she said.
Bulwagi will be the only elephant at the zoo until two young, male African elephants arrive sometime later this year. Slade said the extra time with Bulwagi will allow veterinarians and zoo staff to attempt another surgery to remove his broken tusk. The first surgery on Bulwagi’s broken, infected tusk happened in 2016- the removal wasn’t successful, but doctors were able to better treat the infection.
Zoo visitors can still see Callee in the Trails of Africa before he leaves. “While Callee will of course be missed by all Birmingham Zoo staff, volunteers, and guests alike, we look forward to seeing him grow and have the chance to build a family of his own,” Birmingham Zoo President and CEO Chris Pfefferkorn said.
African elephants are an endangered species.