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Giants of the Savanna :: Elephants on the Savanna

Elephants on the Savanna

The Dallas Zoo brought together a herd of female elephants for the Giants of the Savanna elephant habitat, which opened May 2010. They are an active group in a range of ages just like a real matriarchal elephant family in the wild. Their relatively advanced ages have led some at the Zoo to refer to the ladies as their Golden Girls.

In March 2016, the Dallas Zoo welcomed five additional elephants (four females and one male) to the Giants of the Savanna. In partnership with Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Wichita’s Sedgwick County Zoo, the elephants were rescued along with 12 others from drought-stricken Swaziland, Africa.

Based on field research, the design of the Giants of the Savanna habitat allows the elephants to be more active. In the wild, they move a lot because they are looking for food, water, and companionship. The activity-based, multi-species habitat features various incentives to encourage the elephants to travel throughout the entire space. Treats are occasionally hidden in trees or in niches around the habitat and elephants exercise their trunk muscles to find those treats or to reach high-hanging hay nets. They travel over small hills, into waterholes, and along an off-exhibit pathway for additional work outs.

Zoologists observe how elephants use their space and study how an active lifestyle impacts their health. They share that information with colleagues at zoos and researchers studying elephants in the wild.


About the Dallas Zoo’s Golden Girls:

Jenny (born 1976 est.): A Dallas Zoo resident since December 1986 when Jenny, described as vocal and playful by those who know her best, retired from circus life. The African elephant enjoys watermelon, corn on the cob, and bananas. Jenny loves a nice pedicure and having her toenails groomed.

Gypsy (born 1982 est.): Known as an instigator of mischief, zookeepers say Gypsy is eager and rambunctious. Gypsy, like her pal Jenny, is retired from circus and movie life and enjoys watermelon. She loves attention and learning new things.

Congo (born February 1978): A circus retiree, Congo is called smart, investigative, and inquisitive and is enjoying exploring all of the new things she can do at the savanna. She loves to munch on bamboo, stripping layers of fibers and leaves off for a good chew, and enjoys regular pedicures with toenail filing.

Kamba (born February 1980): Many describe the petite Kamba as friendly, calm, and cautious. A former D Magazine cover elephant and TV star, she and best pal Congo have left celebrity life and the circus behind for retirement on the savanna. Fond of cantaloupe, bamboo, and general grooming sessions, Kamba is the smallest elephant in the family.


About the Swaziland group:

Mlilo (born 2003 est.): This is the spirited one! Mlilo’s (mLEE-lo) name means “fire,” and she’s the largest of the Swaziland five.

Ajabu (born May 14, 2016): This bundle of joy was born to Mlilo.

Zola (born 2003 est.): This mellow girl with a name meaning “quiet and tranquil” is about the same age as Mlilo. She was the second Swaziland elephant to be introduced to the Golden Girls and can be identified by the horseshoe-shaped hair at the end of her tail.

Tendaji (born 2003 est.): The lone male, Tendaji (ten-DAHJ-ee) was the first Swaziland elephant introduced to the Golden Girls. His name means “make it happen.”


About the Golden Girls’ Home

Tembo Udango and Fig Tree
Guests can view African elephants at the Elephant Water-hole made possible through the generosity of Gayla and Jim Von Ehr, featuring a river in which the elephants can splash and swim. During snack time, the elephants can push against a custom-built African fig tree, using their weight to make it wobble and release nuts and fruit, just as they do in the wild. A shaded animal enrichment and viewing area allows keepers to talk to guests about elephant behavior and answer questions.

The Elephant Savanna
The south habitat is primary territory of the Dallas Zoo’s Golden Girls, a matriarchal family of African elephants. With wallows, watering holes, trees to push and rub against, and several enrichment and activity stations strategically placed throughout the savanna, guests will see active elephants throughout the day. The south and north habitats can be opened to one another, allowing the elephants and their hoofed friends to mix and mingle as they might in the wild. The Elephant Savanna is an active elephant study facility, with experts collecting data to be shared with scientists at other zoos and those working in the field. We study communication among elephants, longevity, foot care (10,000 pounds is a lot to support), staying healthy and active, and ways to improve their quality of life.

Simmons Safari Base Camp & Levy Family Outlook made possible through the generosity of Carol, John, Katherine and Allen Levy
Giants of the Savanna guests can stop in at the Simmons Safari Base Camp to play the Dallas Zoo’s own touch-screen elephant video game, view animal artifacts, watch videos about field research with animals, and ask educational interpreters questions about the animals of the savanna. From the beautiful Levy Family Lookout deck, take in an expansive view of the activity on the Elephant Savanna.

The Elephant Barn
With a $2 million price tag, the technologically advanced elephant barn offers numerous amenities. Climate controlled, the barn is equipped with radiant floor heating that warms the sealed but soft, padded floor in the winter. Movable walls and transoms provide cross-ventilation in the summer. A community room with 7-foot-deep sand floors is the perfect place for elephant interaction. To stimulate these accomplished diggers, zookeepers bury food and toys in the sand for the elephants to find. The building has a 7.5-ton winch spanning the length of the barn, so if an elephant needs help, caregivers have the much-needed muscle to help move an animal to any point in the barn. The winch serves double-duty as an enrichment tool since it can be used to hang food high in ropes or nets, allowing the elephants to reach up and collect food with their trunks, an activity they would do in the wild.

With the introduction of the five elephants from Swaziland, a large mammal barn was converted to be a second elephant barn with similar amenities to the primary elephant barn.