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National Zoo welcomes new elephant into herd

Wednesday - 5/22/2013, 6:38pm  ET

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Bozie, who arrived at the National Zoo on May 22, will be quarantined for 30 days before being slowly introduced to the herd. (Courtesy of Smithsonian's National Zoo/Connor Mallon)
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WASHINGTON - A female Asian elephant named Bozie had a rough night in March: her only companion passed away.

Officials at the Baton Rouge Zoo, her home at the time, worked hard to find her a new place to live, one where she could interact with other elephants and maintain social connections that researchers say are crucial for the creatures.

They finally settled on Elephant Trails at the National Zoo as Bozie's new home. After traveling more than 1,100 miles in a truck with Elephant Manager Marie Galloway, Zoo Veterinarian Nancy Boedeker and a keeper from the Baton Rouge Zoo, the 37-year-old elephant arrived safely in Washington on May 22.

According to officials at the National Zoo, Bozie will have three playmates at Elephant Trails. Ambika, 65, and Shanthi, 38, are both female as well. Shanthi's 11-year-old offspring, Kandula, is male. It will be a reunion of sorts for Bozie and Shanthi, who already know each other. Records show that the two lived together briefly at the Elephant Orphanage Department of Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka when they were calves, before being moved to North America.

"Social interaction is key to an elephant's mental and physical well-being," said Don Moore, the National Zoo's associate director of Animal Care Sciences, in a press release. "We do everything we can to encourage these natural social bonds. I'm so jazzed for our herd and elephant team!"

The Elephant Community Center, the final part of the zoo's $56 million project that spanned seven years, opened two months ago to facilitate what zoo officials say are best practices for managing Asian elephants. This means there is space for socializing, training and playing.

Once Bozie clears her 30-day quarantine, keepers will slowly introduce her to the other elephants in the herd.

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