San Diego Zoo loans Fresno 7,500-pound elephant

A 7,500-pound resident just moved to Fresno – an 11-year-old African elephant named Vus’Musi, who moved to his new home at Fresno Chaffee Zoo on Thursday.

A team of animal care staff from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park brought the elephant, who is affectionately called “Moose” or “Moosey” by his keepers, to Fresno as part of a breeding loan recommended by the Species Survival Plan program, managed within zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Moosey’s keepers worked with him for weeks to prepare him for the move, so when the day came for him to leave the Safari Park, he walked into his moving crate easily, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo said. To ensure that Moosey was safe and comfortable, he was monitored throughout the entire drive by two of his Safari Park keepers and a veterinarian. During the trip, there were frequent stops to reward him with treats, including watermelon and cuttings from leafy tree branches.

After Moosey’s quarantine is complete, he’ll officially meet his new herd – females Amy and Betts. Two of Moosey’s keepers from the Safari Park, Mindy Albright and Curtis Lehman, will stay with him in Fresno to assist in his transition to new keepers and surroundings, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo said.

“He’s all grown up,” said Lehman, animal care supervisor at San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Being a male, we knew that someday he’d probably move to another place and start a family of his own – and it turned out to be the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.”

This fall, all three elephants will be living in the multi-species African Adventure exhibit, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo said.

Moosey was born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2004. He is the first calf born into a herd of elephants that was relocated from Swaziland to San Diego in 2003, to prevent them from being culled in their homeland, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo said. His name, Vus’Musi, means “to build a family” – and now that he is in Fresno, animal care staff hope that he will become a father.