AN AFRICAN elephant that used to call the Philadelphia Zoo home will soon show whether there's any truth to the saying that elephants never forget.
The Philadelphia Zoo announced yesterday that Kallie, an elephant that was moved to the Pittsburgh Zoo's International Conservation Center in 2009 - along with Bette, another African elephant - was moved again yesterday, this time to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
There, Kallie will be reunited with three elephants she knew previously, zoo officials said.
"It wouldn't be unusual for them to remember," Kim Lengel, the Philadelphia Zoo's director of conservation and its general curator, said yesterday. "There are plenty of documented cases where elephants have been separated for very long periods of time and still remember each other."
The decision to move Kallie from Pittsburgh and split her from Bette was made by Philadelphia Zoo officials - who still closely follow their former elephants - after the Pittsburgh Zoo rescued three young elephants from Botswana.
Officials described Bette as a "sweetheart" and predicted that she'd be easy to integrate with the new elephants in Pittsburgh.
Marianne Bessey, founder of the advocacy group Friends of Philly Zoo Elephants, which has been pushing for six years for the animals to be given permanent homes in sanctuaries, said she's disappointed by the decision.
Bessey said the Cleveland zoo is "in a cold climate with just a fraction of the space that she would have at a true sanctuary." She compared Cleveland's five-acre exhibit to the more than 2,000 acres at a sanctuary in Tennessee where Dulary, an Indian elephant formerly living at the Philadelphia Zoo, was moved.
Bessey said that if Kallie was moved to that sanctuary or to another one in California that offered to take her, she still would have a chance to reunite with familiar elephants.
"That shipment [with which Kallie arrived in the U.S.] had over 100 baby elephants," Bessey said, adding that some of those elephants live in the sanctuaries. "She has just as much of a chance of being reunited there as she does with someone at the Cleveland zoo."
Lengel said the decision to move Kallie was made because Kallie is more dominant than Bette. Sue Allen, a spokeswoman for the Cleveland zoo, said Kallie seems mellow so far.
Allen said that two of the elephants previously living with Kallie, Shenga and Martika, were "very interested" when she arrived at the zoo yesterday afternoon. Willy, the only male elephant of the herd there, also has a history with Kallie.
Over the next few weeks, Lengel said, Bette and Kallie will be introduced gradually to their new herds. Philadelphia Zoo personnel will stay up to date on how the introductions are going.
"We're very involved," she said, adding that she visited facilities to choose Kallie's new home. "Moving an elephant is a big deal."