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Louisville Zoo to relocate and retire its two remaining elephants

Two elephants.
Kyle Shepherd
Louisville Zoo
The zoo's two remaining elephants are heading off to retire together in Tennessee after more than 30 years together in Louisville.

The Louisville Zoo will no longer have elephants by summer 2025. After their departure, white rhinos will go into their current habitat.

The Louisville Zoo announced Thursday that Asian elephant Punch and African elephant Mikki are retiring. They are currently the zoo’s only elephants.

They are relocating to an elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee in Spring 2025.

The Elephant Sanctuary is the largest facility of its kind in the U.S.

Zoo officials said the Elephant Sanctuary is better equipped to meet the needs of aging elephants.

“The gap continues to widen between what we can realistically provide our aging elephants and our evolved understanding of their geriatric needs,” said Louisville Zoo Director Dan Maloney in a news release.

Punch came to the Louisville Zoo in 1973, and Mikki joined her in 1987. In their more than 30 years together the two elephants have created a strong bond.

“Louisville Zoo has reached the point where it is imperative that we secure a place for Mikki and Punch where they can retire together, and their complex social needs are fully met throughout their golden years,” Maloney said in the release.

Mikki gave birth to two elephant calves while at the zoo, Scotty and Fitz. Both elephants died before they reached adulthood.

Zoo officials said they plan to convert the elephant enclosure into a habitat for its two southern white rhinoceroses.

According to the release, the zoo will consider building a new elephant enclosure with enough space to house a multi-generational herd in future master plans. However, due to cost and space constraints, zoo officials said the planning portion of a new habitat would be approached with “utmost responsibility.” They didn’t provide an estimate of when that plan might come to fruition.

News LouisvilleYouth Reporting
Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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