Bowie, a 9-year-old male Asian elephant, is relocated from Fort Worth Zoo as part of AZA’s Species Survival Plan.
Guests visiting the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden will have an opportunity to welcome its newest animal family member, Bowie (pronounced Boo-ee), a 9-year-old male Asian elephant. Bowie is joining our elephant herd from the Fort Worth Zoo in Fort Worth, Texas. The recommendation for Bowie to be relocated to the OKC Zoo came from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for Asian elephants. AZA’s SSP programs are cooperatively managed programs to oversee species populations within AZA accredited zoos and aquariums.
Born at the Fort Worth Zoo in 2013, Bowie stands over 8 feet tall and weighs more than 6,400 pounds. The name Bowie was chosen by the Fort Worth team in honor of legendary Texan, Jim Bowie who fought in the Texas Revolution and follows a Fort Worth Zoo tradition of giving each elephant a Texas-themed name beginning with the letter “B.” Bowie loves to play in the water and can be seen swimming almost any time of the year. Like most young elephants, he is full of energy and eager to learn new things.
After a year of planning, Bowie’s arrival is a high point in an otherwise difficult week for the Zoo’s elephant caretaking team which just three days prior made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize their geriatric elephant, Bamboo. Bamboo, approximately 56 years old, had been exhibiting age-related issues that hindered her ability to participate in her own health care, physical therapy and training for foot care. With her quality of life diminishing beyond medical treatment, the Zoo’s veterinary and elephant care teams made the difficult but necessary decision to euthanize Bamboo.
“Although the elephant caretaker team is still mourning the recent loss of Bamboo, we are very excited about Bowie’s arrival,” said Rachel Emory, the OKC Zoo’s curator of elephants and rhinos. “We have been working closely with the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for Asian elephants for the last year on Bowie’s relocation and are excited to welcome him. We have watched our young female elephants grow up here at the OKC Zoo and are thrilled at the prospect of them having calves of their own and grow our herd.”
“Of course, we're sad to see Bowie leave the herd, but we knew this day would eventually come,” said Fort Worth Zoo Executive Director Michael Fouraker. “We very carefully considered herds around the country and because of Oklahoma City Zoo’s tenured program and Asian elephant breeding success, we feel confident he's in the best place. It's exciting to know that as a bull elephant, he'll be introduced to a new group of genetically diverse females and hopefully contribute to this declining population of critically endangered animals. All of us at the Fort Worth Zoo are excited for Bowie's new adventure!”
Male elephants, also known as bulls, in the wild are semi-nomadic, typically traveling alone as adults and meet up with females to breed. As Bowie settles in to his home here, our expert animal care team will begin slow introductions with our elephant herd. There is no determination how long this process will take. Guests may be able to see Bowie outside soon, depending on his level of comfort and weather.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Asian elephants are an endangered species with many threats to their survival. The biggest threat includes human-elephant conflict as a result of habitat loss and poaching for ivory tusks, skin and meat. Asian elephants live in a very densely populated section of the world. As habitat decreases, they come in contact with people causing conflict because elephants raid food stores and crops. Asian elephants have lost over 90% of their historical habitat due to human expansion and farming. Asian elephants are also at risk of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), a fast-moving elephant herpes virus that affects wild elephants and those in human care, with an approximately 60% fatality rate. All elephants carry the virus and it poses a large threat to elephant calves more often. When an elephant gets a primary infection, calves don’t have the antibodies to fight off the infection and it causes an aggressive and quick decline in health. The OKC Zoo’s elephant and veterinary care teams have implemented successful elephant training and preparedness efforts to monitor for signs of EEHV on a regular basis.
In the last decade, the Zoo has contributed more than $400,000 to elephant-related conservation. OKC Zoo proudly participants in the Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan®(SSP), developed by the Association for Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and in the Saving Animal from Extinction (SAFE) program for Asian elephants. AZA SAFE is a collective effort among AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to inform and engage their 200+ millions annual visitors to save the world’s wildlife and wild places. SAFE is a program that not only protects threatened animals but also builds recovery plans, implements strategic conservation and prioritizes collaboration among AZA member organizations. Out of the 29 AZA SAFE programs, the OKC Zoo is proud to participate in 7 programs including one for Asian elephants. The goal of the Asian elephant SAFE is to enhance and assist conservation efforts within 13 range countries by engaging communities and supporting research of treatment and management of EEHV in Asian elephants. By supporting zoos like the OKC Zoo, you put your best trunk forward in Asian elephant conservation.
The OKC Zoo is home to a multi-generational herd of seven Asian elephants – males Rex (55) and Kandula (20) and females Asha (27), Chandra (26), Achara (7), Kairavi (4) and the newest addition Rama (10 months).
The Oklahoma City Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with the last entry at 4 p.m. The Zoo will be closed to the public during the daytime on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Tuesdays and Wednesdays between December 6 and February 8, 2023. Purchase advance Zoo admission tickets at okczoo.org/tickets and avoid the entry lines. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular daytime admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay connected with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linktree and TikTok, and by visiting our blog stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming a ZOOfriends member. Starting at $45, memberships can be purchased at ZOOfriends.org and provide access to the OKC Zoo for an entire year plus, additional benefits and discounts. To learn more about Zoo happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.