Chicago’s Last Elephant Leaves Brookfield Zoo

With Joyce gone from Brookfield Zoo Wednesday night, Chicago was left without an elephant in one of its zoos for the first time in more than 75 years.

When Joyce, a 27-year-old elephant, walked up a ramp and into a specially outfitted tractor trailer truck Wednesday night, Brookfield Zoo was left without an elephant in its collection for the first time since the Chicago Zoological Society opened the park in 1934.

The Lincoln Park Zoo, the area’s other major animal attraction, doesn’t have any elephants, leaving Chicagoans elephant-less for the first time in more than 75 years.

On loan from Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, Calif., since August 2009, Joyce was brought to Brookfield Zoo to serve as a companion of Christy, an African elephant who died from a kidney failure on Dec. 22, 2009.

Since that time zoo officials had been working with the American Zoological Association’s Species Survival program to find a companion for Joyce, who was on display at Brookfield Zoo all summer.

As that work progressed, Six Flags decided they wanted Joyce back for their collection, where they could provide the kind of companionship Joyce needed.

“Elephants are social animals and need companionship,” said William Ziegler, senior vice president of collections and animal care for the CZS. “Therefore, it was in the best interest of Joyce that she be sent to a facility that would provide her with the companionship of other elephants.”

According to Ziegler, Joyce made the 13-hour trip in the company of a veterinarian from Six Flags, and she reportedly had arrived at her destination safely. He directed questions regarding Joyce’s destination to Six Flags. A call to Nancy Chan, communications director for Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, was not immediately returned.

Although without an elephant in its collection, Brookfield Zoo will move forward with a renovation of the pachyderm building at the zoo, which will provide a new, larger indoor area for elephants and an off-exhibit area for elephant care.

According to Ziegler, there’s no time table for construction and plans have not yet been drawn up.

“We are in the process of doing a scope of work [for the project],” Ziegler said. “As of now we don’t have a time table, specifically, but we’re committed to do this.”

Longer range, Brookfield Zoo has proposed a $30 million renovation of the entire elephant habitat area, which would give the animals 10 times more room to roam.

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