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Buffalo Zoo moving two aging elephants to New Orleans, closing exhibit

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The Buffalo Zoo is relocating its two Asian elephants to a zoo in New Orleans. Jothi, 36, and Surapa, 35, will be heading to that city's Audubon Zoo, which local officials say can better meet their needs as they age.

The decision was made following an assessment and the recommendations of a task force, which weighed various options.

"While we did look at the possibility of building them a new exhibit on site, their needs based on the size of the enclosure that would be required, and the fact it would take several years for that exhibit to be built, we would have to determine how much that exhibit would cost," said Norah Fletchall, the zoo's president and chief executive officer.

"That would be an extremely high dollar figure. We want to make sure that we're moving Jothi and Surapa into a location that can meet their care needs as they age."

The zoo's board of directors voted unanimously to relocate the elephants.

“This decision demonstrates that the Buffalo Zoo will always do what is best and right for all of the animals in our care,” said Jonathan Dandes, Chairman of the Zoo’s Board of Directors, in a statement.

Jothi and Surapa will join two other older elephants in a newly-renovated, $10 million state-of-the-art exhibit that was designed specifically to address the needs of aging elephants.

The relocation will take place later this fall.

As for the elephant house, the zoo will soon reveal details of its strategic plan. Among the considerations in the near future is a new exhibit for some of its other residents. 

"We are considering a number of options but I can tell you one of the options that we are initially considering - and this is yet to be developed fully - is possibly renovating that space into a fantastic gorilla exhibit," Fletchall said.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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