Denver Zoo plays a critical role in the long-term viability of endangered Asian elephants. It houses only males, whose genetics are valuable to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), and is one of the few institutions in the world dedicated exclusively to the care of male elephants. Now Denver Zoo is home to the largest bachelor herd of Asian elephants in North America following the arrival of two new residents—Jake and Chuck.
Jake, age 8, and Chuck, age 10, arrived at Denver Zoo in late September from African Lion Safari in Ontario, Canada, and join the Zoo’s current Asian elephant inhabitants, Groucho, Bodhi and Billy. Their new home at the Zoo, Toyota Elephant Passage, which opened in 2012 and cost $50 million, is one of the largest and most complex elephant exhibits in North America. Made possible in part by Your Hometown Toyota Stores, it features two miles of interconnected trails, more than 1.2 million gallons of water for swimming and bathing, six outdoor yards and nine indoor areas, and various other features that ensure their physical, mental and behavioral wellbeing.
“Denver Zoo is deeply committed to the protection of Asian elephants and uniquely qualified to house and provide exceptional care for multiple bulls,” said Brian Aucone, senior vice president for animal sciences at Denver Zoo. “We designed and built Toyota Elephant Passage to support the Asian elephant population in North American zoos, and establish Denver Zoo as a worldwide leader in the care of male Asian elephants.”
Jake and Chuck will be part of Denver Zoo’s ongoing efforts to protect and save Asian elephants, which have a decreasing global population estimated at fewer than 35,000. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ classifies them as endangered, primarily due to habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation caused by an expanding human population, and increasing conflict between humans and elephants. Denver Zoo participates in the Asian Elephant SSP, which works to maximize diversity, appropriately manage the demographic distribution and long-term sustainability of Asian elephants within AZA accredited institutions. Additionally, the Zoo collaborates with the AZA and International Elephant Foundation to support research and global conservation efforts.
“Denver Zoo has made tremendous contributions towards the conservation and research of Asian elephants within zoos and in the wild,” said Deborah Olson, executive director of the International Elephant Foundation, which supports conservation, awareness, scientific programs, and community-based strategies that encourage the peaceful co-existence between humans and elephants. “As a board member of the International Elephant Foundation, Denver Zoo helps us achieve our mission to enhance the survival of elephants and protect their habitats worldwide, thereby creating a sustainable future for elephants.”
Jake and Chuck are currently being kept behind the scenes in Toyota Elephant Passage. They will make their public debut this fall once they are comfortable in their new home and following a quarantine period of at least 30 days. Filming and interview requests will not be granted until further notice.