New bull elephant coming to Zoo Atlanta

A bull elephant from the San Diego Zoo named Msholo will be the latest addition to the African Savanna habitat at Zoo Atlanta. CONTRIBUTED: SAN DIEGO ZOO

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A bull elephant from the San Diego Zoo named Msholo will be the latest addition to the African Savanna habitat at Zoo Atlanta. CONTRIBUTED: SAN DIEGO ZOO

On Wednesday a new player joined the herd at Zoo Atlanta when the African bull elephant Msholo was welcomed into the zoo's brand-new African Savanna exhibit.

The 11,000-pound Msholo joins Kelly and Tara, two female elephants who have been at the zoo since 1986. The females are “closely bonded social companions,” which means it may take a while to introduce them to their new roommate.

Aside from a brief period in the 1960s, the zoo has only housed female elephants. Males are much larger, and require different care.

In preparation, members of the Zoo Atlanta elephant care team traveled to other zoos for additional training, and traveled to San Diego to meet and spend time with Msholo. Also, two members of the team that cared for Msholo in San Diego are in Atlanta, helping the 30-year-old male become accustomed to his new surroundings

According to Zoo Atlanta his name is pronounced “mi-SHOW-low.” His acquisition was made possible by the dramatically expanded elephant habitat in the African Savanna exhibit, and the new Zambezi Elephant Center.

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Zoo Atlanta gives a sneak peek of the new African Savanna elephant habitat, a 103,000 square foot grassy park that will triple the amount of room available to the zoo's elephants. (Tyson Horne / Tyson.Horne@ajc.com)

The new facility is triple the size of the old elephant habitat, and the indoor space has room for seven elephants. Because males tend to be kept separately, the old habitat would not have had room for a bull.

Msholo, who is 30 years old, will be kept off exhibit for a while as he acclimates  and is introduced to Kelly and Tara, who are each 36 years old. The African Savanna exhibit is still under construction and will open to the public Aug. 8.

“There is not a plan to breed these elephants,” said spokesperson Rachel Davis. “The hope is that Msholo will be a social companion for Kelly and Tara. A primary goal of the creation of the new African Savanna was to provide an enlarged and socially and physically enriching new home for Kelly and Tara.”

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Msholo, 30, the new elephant at Zoo Atlanta, comes from the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. CONTRIBUTED: SAN DIEGO ZOO AND SAFARI PARK

Credit: Ken Bohn

Msholo, 30, the new elephant at Zoo Atlanta, comes from the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. CONTRIBUTED: SAN DIEGO ZOO AND SAFARI PARK

Credit: Ken Bohn

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Msholo, 30, the new elephant at Zoo Atlanta, comes from the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. CONTRIBUTED: SAN DIEGO ZOO AND SAFARI PARK

Credit: Ken Bohn

Credit: Ken Bohn

Davis said that the zoo’s veterinarians have kept tabs on the reproductive health of Kelly and Tara and they don’t consider the two females candidates for breeding due to their age.

The zoo will continue to consult with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to see how Atlanta can contribute to the Species Survival Plan for elephants.