July 2024

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Kandula is a thirteen-year-old male Asian Elephant who has spent his whole life at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C. He is a descendant of Sri Lankan elephants and his name means strength and virtue in Sinhalese. But unfortunately, he shares too many genes with his home zoo’s females and cannot mate with any of them. As a consequence, he is now making the long 1,300-mile journey from Washington D.C. to Oklahoma City in order to find a mate and create a family.

He will be missed

Kandula was born in 2001 at the Smithsonian National Zoo as a 300-pound calf and grew up there until he was a full-grown 7,300-pound elephant. His mother Shanthi still lives there; he will be leaving her behind. The National Zoo will still have official ownership of him and he may return home one day. He is a favorite of the workers. One elephant keeper named Debbie Flinkman likened the experience to seeing a kid go off to college. Even though it will be hard to see him go, they are happy he will be around females he can mate with. The zoo has been planning to build their elephant herd, and this is an important step necessary to achieve this objective.

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A very long trip

Kandula began his journey early Tuesday morning. Elephant keepers carefully helped him into a giant shipping crate – they had been training him to walk into a crate since August – and then loaded the crate onto a small truck. The truck drove him to a flatbed tractor-trailer, which began the 1,300-mile trip. It will make no overnight stops, so the entire journey is expected to take about 20 hours. Zoo keepers went along on the trip to supply Kandula with food and water. They will also be there to help him adjust to his new surroundings. The Oklahoma zoo has a herd of seven elephants led by a 47-year-old bull named Rex. Kandula can learn a lot from him and will perhaps inherit the leadership position one day. The lady elephants are anxiously awaiting his arrival.

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SEE ALSO: Kenya Takes A Big Step in Protecting Elephants From Poaching.