Wild Inside: How to move an elephant 250 miles

How Zoo Knoxville moved Jana to her new home, and what’s next for Edie & Tonka.
How Zoo Knoxville moved Jana to her new home, and what’s next for Edie & Tonka.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 10:31 AM EDT|Updated: May. 31, 2023 at 12:08 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - If you’ve ever visited Zoo Knoxville, no doubt you’ve seen the Zoo’s three elephants: Jana, Edie and Tonka. Now, only two elephants are left in the habitat.

“Jana is happily at her new home in Hohenwald, Tennessee,” said Drew Rohan, the Chief Operating Officer at Zoo Knoxville. “I, along with some of the keepers and our vet staff, transported her down to the southwest of Nashville to a sanctuary down there.”

Jana’s new home is a paradise for elephants. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee spans over 3,000 acres in Middle Tennessee, providing refuge for elephants retired from zoos and circuses. The move is part of the zoo’s lifelong plan for the elephants, all three of which are of geriatric age.

“We want to make sure that as they enter the golden years of their life, that they have the best care and best habitat possible,” Rohan said.

While Jana is successfully enjoying her new home, it was no easy task transporting her on the 250 mile journey.

“It’s something that we take very seriously here,” said Rohan. “Making sure that the animals not only safe but comfortable and we did it all through positive reinforcement and choice on her part. We really went at Jana’s pace.”

Jana practiced getting in an out of the crate, making sure she was comfy for the hours long trip.

“Luckily, she is a very adventurous elephant, so she is happy to experience new things.”

The other female elephant at Zoo Knoxville, Edie, will make the trip next.

“Edie is a little more reluctant and a little more shy,” said Rowan. “The crate is back in place now that we’ve dropped off Jana, and now we’re just slowly working with Edie to get her happy and comfortable.”

Rohan says it impacts not just the zoo staff, but the entire community to see these majestic animals leave.

“The elephants have been a part of Zoo Knoxville’s legacy for almost 75 years now. These particular elephants have been here for decades. It’s been sad to see them go, but it’s the right choice, and we feel really comfortable and really happy for the next stage of their life.”

Finally, Tonka will make the trip after Edie, leaving Zoo Knoxville without any elephants.

“We did just develop a new facilities master plan, and as part of that plan, looking into the future, there is an elephant habitat detailed in that plan,” said Rowan. “If the funding and resources are there, we would bring elephants back in the future.”

To learn more about the Elephant Sanctuary in Middle Tennessee and to check out the elephants on live cams, click here.

You still have time to visit Edie and Tonka! Click here for information on how to book your next visit.