National Zoo to receive 3 new elephants

Three new Asian elephants are due to arrive at the National Zoo next spring. Photo: National Zoo

The National Zoo will be the new home for three female Asian elephants due to arrive in D.C. this spring on loan from the Calgary Zoo in Alberta.

Kamala and Swarna, the oldest of the three elephants, were born in the wild around 1975 and were brought to the Calgary Zoo via the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka in 1976. Kamala’s daughter, named Maharani, was born in captivity at the Calgary zoo in 1990. The three new additions will grow the National Zoo’s current herd to seven and their arrival will be a reunion of sorts: records from the elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka indicate that Kamala and Swarna’s time there overlapped with the stays of current National Zoo elephants Bozie and Shanthi before all four departed for North America.

The new elephants will be kept under quarantine in the National Zoo’s elephant barn for at least 30 days after their arrival. Following the quarantine period, the three newcomers will be introduced to the zoo’s current herd.

The elephants’ arrival was made possible by a $2 million donation from David M. Rubenstein, a member of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents and co-chief executive officer of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm based in D.C. The donation covers the elephants’ transportation, upgrade to the National Zoo’s facilities, travel and training for zoo keepers as well as health care and veterinary assessments.

Rubenstein, a noted philanthropist in Washington D.C., also made a gift of $4.5 million to the National Zoo in 2011 to help fund its giant panda conservation program through 2016. Rubenstein also pledged $7.5 million in 2012 to foot half of the $15 million bill for repair work on the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument and $13.5 million in 2011 for a new gallery in the National Archives.