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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A pair of Asian elephants from Seattle is adjusting to life in Oklahoma City after a high-tension transfer, a temporary quarantine and some pachyderm posturing, according to zookeepers.

Oklahoma City Zoo elephant supervisor Nick Newby told The Oklahoman that females Bamboo and Chai from Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo got to mingle with the other elephants for the first time last week. The Seattle elephants had been quarantined for 30 days after arriving May 13 and have since been slowly integrated to the Oklahoma herd: adults Asha and Chandra and youngsters Malee and Achara.

“The main thing we’re looking for are behavioral markers,” Newby said. “We want them to sniff each other and touch their trunks. If there’s any pushing and shoving we want to see how they’re doing it, and who is doing it, with the barrier in place so we know what to look for when there is no barrier.”


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An inside look at the Oklahoma City Zoo, where Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo elephants Chai and Bamboo will soon join five others in a 3.95-acre habitat. Read more. (Steve Ringman and Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)    

Staffers from the Seattle zoo have been on hand to help with the introductions. They have helped decipher body language.

Newby said Bamboo initially displayed aggressive, assertive behavior but is now rubbing trunks with the others. The elephants were allowed to roam together in their yard for a few hours on Tuesday and zookeepers will extend that time a little each day until they are together day and night.

“Each day things got a little bit better leading up to this,” Newby said. “The Seattle elephants touch ours and ours touch them. Each day there was a little more interaction so it gets to a point where you can do too much stall to stall. Eventually you have to open the gate.”

The female elephants’ trip began in April after a federal appeals court declined to block the transfer. The move was opposed by animal rights activists and at least one member of the Seattle City Council.

It’s unclear how long the integration will take. Newby said the process is dictated almost entirely by the elephants.

“I would rather the introduction process take longer and be more successful down the road than to rush something and have a problem six months down the road because we didn’t do it properly,” Newby said.


Information from: The Oklahoman,