Zoo Miami received two new additions Tuesday. "Cita" and "Lisa" are African elephants that arrived from the Virginia Zoo as part of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums recommendation.
The recommendation is in line with an upcoming requirement by the AZA that accredited institutions exhibiting elephants maintain them in herds of three or more to support the complex and psychological health of the animals.
"We're very excited to be part of this partnership with Zoo Miami, delivering 18,000 pounds of African elephants to them," said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo.
Lisa is 42, was born in the wild, and arrived at the Virginia Zoo in 1976. Cita is almost 48 and arrived at the Virginia Zoo from the Indianapolis Zoo in 2005.
Following a quarantine period, they will be joining Zoo Miami's resident African females, Peggy and Mabel, both of whom are 40.
"It was a long drive, but it's pretty exciting to be here and see our girls meet our new friends," Bockheim said.
All of these females are beyond their reproductive ages and therefore will not be part of any breeding program.
Zoo Miami is the only zoo in the continental United States that is located in a sub-tropical climate where the elephants can remain outdoors year-round while enjoying the exhibits that have gone through recent renovations.
South Florida, with its mild climate and abundant sunshine, offers the ideal retirement location for these elephants, zoo officials said.
"Elephants are very sensitive to cold, especially as they get older. So having these large exhibits that we have at Zoo Miami, having these elephants come down here to live out their lives, is really best for everybody involved," said Ron Magill, Communications Director of Zoo Miami.
"They need more social opportunities, social choice to live with more elephants and their friends. As they age they need an environment that's a little bit warmer, the substrate softer to walk on just like humans," Bockheim said.
The elephants will be officially presented to the public on May 20, 2016.