New elephant coming to the Milwaukee County Zoo

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A new elephant is joining the herd at the Milwaukee County Zoo. 

The Zoo says in the fall of 2019, African elephant Belle will transfer from Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in South Carolina, joining Ruth and Brittany in the Milwaukee County Zoo Adventure Africa Exhibit. 

Belle is 38 years old and has been at Riverbanks Zoo since 2001. Before that, she was at the Columbus Zoo. The Milwaukee County Zoo says Belle loves baths, flipping sides to make them last longer and lays down and drifts off to sleep mid-bath. She's also been known to toss hay on her head to save as a snack for later. 

Zoo officials say they believe Belle's transfer will improve the elephants' social, psychological, and physical needs as part of new guidelines set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 

“The Milwaukee County Zoo was the right option and the right decision for Belle’s needs, to thrive and live out her life in our new 1.6-acre outdoor habitat and indoor state-of-the-art Elephant Care Center,” Milwaukee County Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser said in a press release. “We know how to take care of elephants that are getting along in age, and I think that’s a real service we can provide to these animals and a responsibility we don’t take lightly."

The Zoo’s new $16.6 million Elephant Exhibit transformed one-fourth of the current layout, and the 20,000-square-foot indoor Elephant Care Center features a recreation room with both sand and padded floors, five individual stalls for training and healthcare and expansive space for enrichment activities. 

The 1.6-acre outdoor habitat features a watering hole, able to accommodate three fully-submerged elephants, feeding and enrichment walls, shade structures and self-activating shower. The exhibit’s goal was to make the habitat, both indoor and out, as normal as possible for elephant behavior in a zoo setting.

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