Special to the News-Journal

TYLER — Two African elephants born at The San Diego Zoo Safari Park now call Tyler’s Caldwell Zoo home.

Emanti and Mac are 8-year-old half brothers who join Tonya, the Tyler zoo’s matriarch elephant.

Caldwell Zoo officials said staff members there worked closely with the staff of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to coordinate every step of the elephants’ transfer.

“This project is a real success story,” said Hayes Caldwell, executive director of the Caldwell Zoo. “Elephants have always been a cornerstone species of our zoo, and we are very glad to continue our work with these animals. I’m extremely proud of our elephant care professionals for their hard work and dedication. It has been an excellent experience to work with the San Diego Zoo Safari Park throughout the process.”

The elephants’ move to Tyler was a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan. All association-accredited facilities work together to manage populations, participate in breeding programs and promote conservation and education goals.

In the wild, elephant herds are matriarchal, meaning a female elephant leads the herd, zoo officials said. Mothers typically push males out of the herd at this stage in their lives. In the case of Emanti and Mac, the Safari Park’s female elephants had begun to show less tolerance for the boys, so it was time to relocate them to a new home where they could grow and thrive.

To prepare for the move, keepers trained Emanti and Mac over several months to go in and out of their individual travel crates, ensuring their comfort and safety for the transport, zoo officials said. Accompanied by their primary keepers and members of the Safari Park’s veterinary team, the elephants in their crates were loaded onto a special transport truck and driven from San Diego to Tyler.

To make sure they are comfortable and secure, animal care staff from San Diego are working with Caldwell Zoo staff members to provide familiar faces and voices during the transition.

“The comfort and care of these elephants and really, all of the animals, is our top priority,” said Scotty Stainback, curator of mammals at Caldwell Zoo. “We put in a lot of preparation for this opportunity. The elephant barn and the outside habitat were enlarged to be well beyond the suggested requirements. All of my team has specific training, and we worked closely with the team from San Diego to make sure everything went smoothly. This will be a good home for these boys, and it will be good for Tonya, too.”

The Caldwell Zoo is proud to introduce Emanti and Mac to the community of Tyler.

Caldwell said his zoo is “thrilled and thankful.”

“Everyone from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has been absolute professionals,” he said. “Overall, this shows the incredible passion and dedication by all involved. Together, we can really make a difference. Now, we’re so excited for all of Tyler and East Texas to come and meet these boys.”