Hogle Zoo Says Goodbye to Elephants Christie and Zuri

Utah’s Hogle Zoo announced a groundbreaking decision earlier this week to pause its historic 100-year care of elephants. Current residents of the zoo, mom Christie (36) and daughter Zuri (13) will be transferred to another Association of Zoos and Aquariums(AZA) accredited facility. An official date for the transfer is yet to be released but officials anticipate they will be relocated by the fall. While zookeepers and zoo goers alike are heartbroken to say goodbye to Christie and Zuri, the move is ultimately best for the pair’s quality of life.  

Utah’s love affair with elephants began 1916 when Salt Lake school children decided to do a fundraiser in order to purchase one from a traveling circus for the local zoo. Her name was Princess Alice. 

Princess Alice and Prince Utah at Utah’s Hogle Zoo

Princess Alice was a favorite, drawing visitors from around the region. But Alice didn’t take well to captivity. She became known for her daring escapes, rampaging around the surrounding Liberty Wells neighborhood, knocking down fences, and hiding from searchers for hours. The repeated escapes, although charming, alarmed neighbors and prompted the zoo to relocate to its current location at the mouth of Emigration Canyon in 1931.

Princess Alice remains memorialized in a statue of her visage that is hung in the elephant enclosure at the Hogle Zoo. 

“Much has changed since 1916 when Princess Alice became the first elephant to live in Utah….Zoos’ focus on species care and conservation is more important than ever. The world’s African elephant population declined from 1.1 million in the 1970s to approximately 450,000 today, with an estimated 100 elephants killed every day. Utah’s Hogle Zoo, with the support of the community, has funded worldwide conservation projects to secure important habitats, build ranger stations in East Africa, and form anti-poaching scouting teams.” Utah Hogle Zoo

African Elephant Zuri at UHZ. Photo courtesy of Hogle Zoo

Despite being one of the few AZA accredited zoos in the United States, there are some necessities that the Hogle zoo has been unable to provide for Christie and Zuri. Elephants benefit greatly from the social dynamic of multigenerational herds which is not possible at the Hogle Zoo’s current facility. Despite expert staff and revolutionary training, attempts at artificially inseminating Zuri have failed due to poor samples. Transferring another bull to the facility would require significant restructuring which would take a minimum of five years to complete. By this time Zuri could age out of her prime reproductive window. 

Utah also isn’t a conducive environment for Christie and Zuri. African elephants naturally inhabit tropical forests, grasslands, and savannahs. They are not built for Utah’s cold snowy winters. In fact The Journal of African Elephants listed the Hogle Zoo as the 10th worst zoo for African elephants in North America. 

In regards to what species the Hogle Zoo will have in the future, CEO and President of the zoo Doug Lund had this to say, “The process is guided by what is best for animal wellbeing, guest impact, and the most effective way to contribute to saving wildlife.” 

For updates on Christie and Zuri the public should folllow hoglezoo.org and @hoglezoo.

Michaelis Lyons
Michaelis Lyons
Michaelis is a current Editorial Intern for Salt Lake Magazine and a recent graduate from Westminster College.

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