An empty elephant enclosure was all that was left at Niabi Zoo Monday morning, October 21, 2013, after its two longtime popular residents, Asian elephants Babe and Sophie, moved to the Little Rock Zoo overnight.
“Our number one criteria when selecting a facility for Babe and Sophie was that in be in a warmer climate,” Zoo Director Marc Heinzman wrote in a statement, “and Little Rock Zoo only has a combined week or two each year when their elephants have to be kept inside. That’s a major improvement from the four to six months that we have at Niabi Zoo.”
Sophie was born in India back in 1969. Babe was born seven years later in Myanmar. Both spent time in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, before the circus donated both to Niabi Zoo — Babe in 2000, Sophie in 2003.
Monday afternoon, they began to settle into their new home.
“It was important to us that Babe and Sophie continue to be managed in such a way that would encourage them to stay active and healthy,” Heinzman’s statement went on to read. “Babe is overweight and Sophie has arthritis. In order to keep these conditions from worsening as they age, they need to be in a management program that has them exercise and stay mobile. [The expert we hired] was impressed by the condition of Little Rock Zoo’s elephant and knowledge of the Zoo’s elephant team.”
Up until now, Little Rock was home to one adult female Asian elephant, Zina.
Niabi Zoo technically still retains Babe and Sophie’s rights, meaning that county officials here can make sure the two elephants are kept together in the future.