The Dallas Zoo has become the first zoo in North America to combine African elephants with zebras, giraffes, impalas, ostriches and guinea fowl in the same habitat.
African elephants, zebras, giraffes, impalas, ostriches and guinea fowl all live side-by-side in the Dallas Zoo’s Giants of the Savanna habitat, just as they would in the wild.
The Dallas Zoo expects its innovative Giants of the Savanna habitat to become a major attraction that will help entice visitors to Dallas, along with other Dallas attractions such as the Dallas Arts District (the largest arts district in the nation, spanning 68 acres and 19 contiguous blocks), the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
According to the Dallas Zoo, the Giants of the Savanna habitat was built, in part, in response to national attention the Dallas Zoo received in 2009 regarding Jenny, an African elephant who has been in the Dallas Zoo’s care since 1986.
Today, Jenny, along with fellow African elephants Mama, Gypsy, Kamba, and Congo, live in the Giants of the Savanna habitat. Like all elephants, the five female elephants are naturally social, intelligent animals with strong personalities. They are older female elephants, but remain very active. The Zoo has started calling the group of African elephants its “Golden Girls”.
“The Giants of the Savanna continues to be a game changer for the Dallas Zoo,” says Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of Dallas Zoo Management Inc. “It is two decades of vision, a dream of what could be, finally becoming reality. Today, the Dallas Zoo is recognized as an innovator and a national and international leader in elephant care.”
Adds Hudson: “We have zoos and elephant experts from all over the world coming here, asking us how we are doing it … telling us they plan to do exactly as we have done. We are extremely pleased with Giants of the Savanna, how we navigated the journey it took to get here and the great team we have in place.
“Most of all, we’re proud of how this habitat has provided a caring, comfortable and stimulating environment for our elephants, our Golden Girls,” says Hudson.
“The Giants of the Savanna is a mentally and physically stimulating habitat for the animals,” says Lynn Kramer, DVM, vice president of animal operations and welfare for Dallas Zoo Management Inc. “The design is based on field research. In the wild, elephants, giraffes, zebras, impalas all move around a lot because they are looking for food, water, and companionship.”
Kramer adds: “We created an activity-based, multi-species habitat with the same incentives to encourage them to travel throughout the entire space. The elephants are the largest – so the other animals move around the Savanna based on where the elephants choose to go.
“The Giants of the Savanna habitat, with over four acres open to the elephants, gives the animals room to roam. We’re observing how they use their space and how an active lifestyle impacts their health and then we share that information with our fellow zoos and researchers studying elephants in the wild,” Kramer notes.
“What the animal experts here at the Giants of the Savanna are doing is bringing different kinds of animals together in one habitat as these animals would live on the savanna in Africa,” says Michael Meadows, president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Zoological Society. “But the addition of elephants has never been done before here in the U.S. and that makes the Dallas Zoo a must-see, destination zoo.”
Meadows adds: “Our peers from other zoos in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are coming to the Dallas Zoo and calling us a leader … With the Giants of the Savanna continuing to thrive and evolve, we truly believe the Dallas Zoo is poised to become one of the best zoological parks in the country.
“Our donors say they are excited to be associated with one of the premier elephant care leaders in the country and to help the outstanding veterinarians, scientists and keepers here take advantage of unprecedented opportunities to learn about and from these animals,” says Meadows.
“The new elephant facility at the Dallas Zoo may represent the future of elephant habitats in zoos in North America,” says Jack Hanna , director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, conservationist, television personality and author.