The Sedgwick County Zoo is moving forward with a plan to import six elephants from Africa.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the zoo’s permit application on Friday.
The Sedgwick County Zoo is partnering with zoos in Dallas and Omaha in an effort to save 18 elephants from death in Swaziland, Africa.
The country is in a severe drought and faces an overpopulation of elephants. The animals are also taking a toll on landscape needed for endangered rhinos.
The Sedgwick County Zoo’s Executive Director Mark Reed says they’ll be adding one male and five females hoping that they'll breed.
"Hopefully, our group here will grow in the future, and an offshoot will go off to another zoo because what was happening in this country is not sustainable. You’ve got to be breeding them," he says. "We and other zoos unfortunately just had females, and that didn’t help matters."
Reed says the elephants have been in protected holding areas since July, and the three zoos are paying for food to be brought in from South Africa.
During the permit process, a group of 80 scientists and animal welfare experts expressed their strong opposition to the elephant import.
African authorities have said if the 18 elephants are not exported, they would be killed.
The Sedgwick County Zoo’s new “Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley” exhibit is expected to open in May.
The zoo’s only elephant, Stephanie, was moved to the new area in October. Cinda, the zoo’s other longtime African elephant, died in November 2014. When the six elephants from Africa arrive, it'll be the first time new elephants have been added to the zoo in 40 years.
The previous elephant home now provides additional space for the rhinos.
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