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Zoo Welcomes Elephants Sophie and Babe

LITTLE ROCK (October 21, 2013) – The Little Rock Zoo welcomed two new elephants, Sophie and Babe, who arrived this afternoon from the Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley, Illinois.  The elephants traveled overnight and were unloaded safely into the elephant barn and are being closely tended to by Zoo staff as they make the adjustment to their new home.            

“The Little Rock Zoo couldn’t be more excited to add Sophie and Babe to our Zoo family,” said Zoo Director Mike Blakely. “The Little Rock Zoo is committed to the highest standards in elephant care and conservation and specializes in handling geriatric female elephants. We are excited that Niabi Zoo has picked our Zoo as the new home for their elephants and we know our guests join Zoo staff in welcoming them to Little Rock.”

Sophie and Babe were transported by Feld Entertainment, Inc. and the Ringling Elephant Conservation Center who moved the elephants free of charge to both zoos.  Babe and Sophie are both former Ringling elephants and were donated to Niabi in 2000 and 2003, respectively.            

“The Little Rock Zoo is grateful to Feld Entertainment for continuing to support our elephant program. We appreciate their commitment to elephant welfare and conservation,” said Blakely.            

The Niabi Zoo announced recently that it would end its elephant program and look for a new home for Sophie, age 44, and Babe, age 38.  Niabi sought to find a new location for the elephants with a more temperate climate at a facility with staff trained in the care and management of aging female elephants. Niabi conducted a nation-wide search to relocate Sophie and Babe and hired elephant expert Alan Roocroft as a consultant to recommend a new home for Babe and Sophie.  

Roocroft visited the Little Rock Zoo to do an assessment of the elephant program and chose Little Rock as the best new home for the Niabi elephants stating in his report that the elephant staff at Little Rock had several years’ experience handling elephants and provides excellent care for its elephant, Zina, a 53-year-old elephant, who Roocroft says is in excellent health for her age.

Roocroft evaluated staff ability, the elephant facility, and the elephant health program at Little Rock to provide a recommendation to Niabi. The report was very complementary of Little Rock’s elephant program and even states, “A word of compliment to the elephant staff, you rarely see such a clean well organized facility where each tool has its place and where you could eat off the floor. Well done to them.”

The Little Rock Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).  Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you and a better future for all living things.  With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and your link to helping animals in their native habitats.  For more information, visit