Meet Mac & Emanti

Mac & Emanti's Journey to Join Tonya at The Caldwell Zoo

We are so happy to share the arrival story of Emanti and eMacembe LaLu Hlata, better known as Mac. They are half-brothers from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. These young elephants are both 8 years old and already enjoying their new home and new friend Tonya, our resident matriarch elephant.

It takes quite a bit of effort and expertise to successfully accomplish such a big transfer. The process has been in planning for over two years. The Caldwell Zoo team worked closely with the staff of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to coordinate every step.

“Elephants are just awesome,” says Hayes Caldwell, director of The Caldwell Zoo. “This is a real success story. Elephants in the wild are getting poached every day. This is why zoos work so hard to provide great habitats for them. We want to help protect these great animals and provide excellent care so that they can live carefree and continue to breed. Elephants have always been a spotlight species of our zoo and we’re very glad to continue our work for these great animals. I’m very proud of my team for their dedication. It’s been an excellent experience to work with The San Diego Zoo Safari Park throughout the process.”

Emanti and Mac were born at The San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2012. The move to the Caldwell Zoo came as a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). All AZA-accredited facilities work together to manage populations, participate in breeding programs, and promote conservation and education goals.

To prepare for the move, keepers trained Emanti and Mac over a period of several months to go in and out of their individual travel crates, ensuring their comfort and safety for the transport. Accompanied by their primary keepers and members of the Safari Park’s veterinary team, the elephants in their crates were loaded onto a special transport truck and driven from San Diego to Tyler, Texas. The animal care team stopped periodically to check on the elephants and to provide fresh water, hay and some of their favorite treats. Their crates were thermostat controlled and had cameras installed, so the animal care team could keep watch over them on monitors during the entire trip.

In the wild, elephant herds are matriarchal, meaning a female elephant leads the herd. Mothers typically push males out of the herd at this stage in their lives. In the case of Emanti and Mac, the Safari Park’s female elephants had begun to show less tolerance for the boys. So, it was time for them to find them a new home where they could grow and thrive.

Emanti and Mac traveled well, arriving healthy and fit. They began to explore their new, large habitat almost immediately. To make sure that they are comfortable and secure, their keepers from San Diego are working with the keepers of The Caldwell Zoo to relate the type of training methods that are familiar.

“The comfort and care of these elephants and really, all of the animals, is our top priority,” states Scotty Stainback, Department Head of Mammals for The Caldwell Zoo. “We put in a lot of preparation for this opportunity. The elephant barn and the outside habitat were enlarged to be well beyond the suggested requirements. All of my team has specific training and we worked closely with the team from San Diego to make sure everything went smoothly. This will be a good home for these boys and it will be good for Tonya, too.”

In fact, the elephants have made the transition even quicker than expected. After a brief quarantine period at their new facility, Emanti and Mac were introduced to Tonya, the 42-year-old female elephant that’s been a long-time favorite of the Caldwell Zoo. The elephants are interacting peacefully and show a real interest in one another.

“What a great experience,” shares Jesse Santee, Lead Keeper of Elephants for The Caldwell Zoo. “It’s just been tremendous. Ben and Katie(sp), the keepers from San Diego, are just so good to work with. We’ve shared a lot of information, back and forth, about elephants. They share their experience, we share ours and everyone gives their best. Yea, it’s been a lot of work and long hours, but it’s so worth it.”

The Caldwell Zoo is proud to introduce Emanti and Mac to the community of Tyler.

“We’re just thrilled and thankful,” reflects Hayes Caldwell. “Everyone from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has been absolute professionals. Overall, this shows the incredible passion and dedication by everyone involved. Together, we can really make a difference. Now, we’re so excited for all of the Tyler community to come and meet these boys!”

Come Visit The Caldwell Zoo and meet Mac & Emanti!
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