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Four elephants moved to San Diego Zoo from Wild Animal Park

April 25, 2009 |  3:38 pm

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After a year of planning and an hourlong trip on Interstate 15, four adult Asian elephants arrived safely today at the San Diego Zoo from the zoo's Wild Animal Park.

The four -- the bull Ranchipur and the females Cookie, Mary and Cha Cha -- are set to star in the zoo's new Harry and Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey, which will open May 23. The zoo's three resident elephants will also be part of the exhibit, the largest (7.5 acres), most expensive ($45 million) and most complex (30 species) in zoo history.

The move from the Wild Animal Park in the San Pasqual Valley toward the zoo on the edge of downtown began before dawn as the elephants -- ranging in size from 5,500 pounds to 12,500 pounds -- were coaxed into iron crates for the ride. A construction crane lifted each crate onto a tractor-trailer.

At approximately 2 p.m., a caravan that included the tractor-trailers, chase cars full of trainers and veterinarians, and an escort of California Highway Patrol and San Diego Police Department cars began the southbound 25-mile trip on I-15.

The date and time of the move had been kept secret, lest crowds prove disruptive to the elephants. By 3 p.m., the move was complete, zoo officials said.

-- Tony Perry

Photo: Ranchipur, the Asian bull elephant at the Wild Animal Park, during a training session this week in preparation for the move. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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