November 16, 2015

BIG NEWS: Sukari and Rosie have arrived!

Rosie (L) and Sukari
Rosie (L) and Sukari

Sukari, a 31-year old female African elephant, arrived at The Sanctuary to begin her life of retirement on Wednesday, Nov 4th. Rosie, a 44-year old African elephant, followed on Thursday, Nov 5th. Both are retired from Nashville Zoo. At Sanctuary, they were reunited with Hadari with whom they shared exhibit space at the zoo. Hadari retired to Sanctuary in late September.

Sukari enters the barn

Sukari entered the barn and treats were waiting!
Sukari entered the barn where treats were waiting for her.

Sukari's arrival on Nov 4th was met with much excitement from Sanctuary staff at the Africa Barn and Habitat. As the doors to her transport trailer were opened and the safety barriers removed, Sukari backed out of the trailer and then entered the African barn where welcoming snacks of bamboo, bananas, and apples were waiting.

Sanctuary and Nashville Zoo Staff watched with quiet anticipation as Sukari took in her new home for the first time.

Sukari exploring Sanctuary

Sukari calmly inspected her new surroundings with her trunk and was soon outside exploring the Annex yard of the Africa habitat. Her explorations soon included throwing mud on herself from the newly created wallow. Hadari was within sight but showed only slight interest in the arrival, she continued to munch on hay and newly cut browse in the other end of the South Yard area.

Sukari exploring Sanctuary


Rosie’s first day

Rosie arrives!
The next day, November 5th, Rosie arrived. Rosie exited the transport trailer and walked into the barn.
She also inspected the new barn and surroundings, snacking on fresh bamboo and banana leaves along the way.

Sukari waited outside
Sukari waited outside in the Annex yard, enjoying the special treats provided by her Caregivers.

Once Rosie was settled in, the doors were open and Rosie entered the yard where she and Sukari were reunited.

Rosie and Sukari reunited in Sanctuary

Rosie and Sukari reunited in Sanctuary
Sukari (L) and Rosie

The two touched trunks, bellowed, and walked side by side around the Annex Yard while Hadari and Care Staff watched from a distance.


Sukari and Rosie were both captured from the wild in Africa as calves and imported to the United States. Rosie spent her early years in captivity on exhibit at various  facilities in Florida before moving to the Jackson Zoo in Jackson, MS where she spent the next 33 years. She moved to the Nashville Zoo in 2010. After Sukari was captured as a 1-year old calf in Africa, she was imported to the Reston Animal Park in Vienna, VA. Sukari was on exhibit there until 1999 when she moved to the Nashville Zoo.

Although Rosie is considerably smaller than Sukari, Rosie is said to be the dominant female of the two. Hadari and Sukari reportedly can get excited when sharing space. Hadari did not share unsupervised space with Sukari and Rosie in their former home. They now share a fence line to give them opportunity to get reacquainted safely and on their own time.

Meeting Tange and Flora

On a recent overcast day, Tange – one of Sanctuary's longtime resident African elephants, left the wooded valley of the African habitat and began walking up the hill toward the Africa barn.  Tange approached the annex yard fence line, keeping her eyes on the two unfamiliar new residents.

Tange (L) meets Sukari
Tange (L)  meets Sukari

After only a moment's hesitation, Tange walked up to the fence within trunks reach of her new habitat mates and allowed them to touch her ears, trunk, and tusks. This was repeated numerous times throughout the day.

After Tange "met" Sukari over the fence separating their areas of the habitat, Rosie walked over and Sukari relinquished her spot at the fence to her companion. To the delight of watching Care Staff, Tange remained calm and confident at the fence allowing a second "new" elephant to inspect her and touch her face.

Caregiver Kristy was observing  these interactions and shared that "It was a very emotional time for caregiver staff to watch Tange reach out to the new elephants and to see their quiet response.  There were lots of low rumbles all around.”

Flora (L) and Sukari
Flora (L) and Sukari

The following day, Flora arrived at the barn to introduce herself. In typical Flora fashion, she walked straight up to the fence with her head high and ears out. She and Sukari sparred a bit over the top of the fence, then Flora stepped back and walked away. 

Rosie and Sukari's first week at Sanctuary

Rosie and Sukari's first week at Sanctuary was one of discovery. They discovered the Africa Habitat's mud wallow. They discovered the harvested trees and branches that Care Staff provided for their enrichment. They have discovered they have a choice in how they can spend their time and where they can spend it. They’ve even been given the option of sleeping outside or in the barn since their stalls open directly into the annex yard.

Sukari (L) and Rosie
Sukari (L) and Rosie

Hadari can be seen going deeper into the wooded areas of the South Yard habitat. She’s certainly been making more use of the habitat on her daily explorations.  She’s  even lying down when all is still and quiet.  Care Staff have observed Hadari venturing closer to the fence line, nearer to Sukari and Rosie.  These interactions are expected to continue as Hadari, Rosie, and Sukari adjust to life at Sanctuary.  Sanctuary staff will work to create opportunities for socialization among these three and with Sanctuary's other African elephants -Tange and Flora. Keep up to date at

L-R: Sukari, Hadari, Rosie
L-R: Sukari, Hadari, Rosie