Oakland Zoo will be devoid of elephants for 1st time in 75 years

The Oakland Zoo said Tuesday it will move its 30-year-old African elephant, Osh, to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee this fall, leaving the zoo without any elephants for the first time in 75 years.   

"Elephants are social herd animals, and despite our best efforts with AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) over the last year to find him compatible companions to move to Oakland, none were available.," the zoo wrote on social media.   

The zoo called the decision "difficult and heartbreaking," but said it was made with Osh's overall wellbeing in mind.   

"While Osh's departure marks the first time in 75 years that the Zoo will be without elephants, our more than thirty-five-year commitment to elephant conservation and welfare remains steadfast," the zoo wrote. "We see this change as an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to elephant conservation through ongoing research, championing anti-poaching initiatives, supporting habitat preservation, and educating the public on animal welfare, wildlife trade, and coexistence."   

The zoo said on its website it worked for a year to find a compatible elephant already in protected care.   

"We currently cannot provide the optimal care and space for multi-generational herds that would meet the welfare and social needs required for elephants," the zoo said.   

Osh won't be moved until the fall, so people still have time to come visit him. 

And Osh will have at least one familiar face waiting for him in Tennessee, where the sanctuary has "thousands of acres" of habitat, the zoo said. 

Donna, the last female African elephant to live at the Oakland Zoo, moved to the same elephant sanctuary in September 2023.    

Osh, who weighs 15,000 pounds and stands 11 feet 2 inches tall, will be transported in a specially designed, air-conditioned trailer, providing enough space for the 40-hour journey to Tennessee.   

In the upcoming months, the zoo's animal care team will hold voluntary training sessions to prepare Osh for the journey.

Members of the sanctuary's animal care and veterinary staff will also visit Oakland Zoo to connect with his current staff and begin building their relationships with Osh.     

The zoo said it will also launch a $500,000 campaign to support his transition and the zoo's commitment to conservation for the year.   

"We also encourage you to share your memories of Osh, and of any of the elephants that have been part of the Oakland Zoo family over the years, by emailing us stories and photos at web@oaklandzoo.org," the zoo said.