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Zoo News

Zoo News

May 7, 2010

The Dallas Zoo’s herd of five female elephants makes their home in the Giants of the Savanna elephant habitat, which opened May 2010.  An active group, similar to an actual matriarchal elephant family in the wild, with relatively advanced ages, have led some at the Zoo to refer to the ladies as their Golden Girls.

“Mama, Jenny, Gypsy, Kamba, and Congo, like all elephants, are naturally social, intelligent animals,” said Gregg Hudson, executive director, Dallas Zoo and the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park. “They have strong personalities and they are older elephants, but very active. That’s why we call them our ‘Golden Girls.’ We spent a lot of time and effort creating a natural habitat to let elephants be elephants.”

“The Giants of the Savanna allows the elephants to be more active as they are in the wild – it is a mentally and physically stimulating habitat,” said Lynn Kramer, DVM, deputy director for animal conservation and science. “The design is based on field research. In the wild, elephants move around a lot because they are looking for food, water, and entertainment. We created an activity-based, multi-species habitat with the same incentives to encourage them to travel throughout the entire space. The Giants of the Savanna habitat is one of the largest zoological elephant habitats in the world. We’ll observe how they use their space and how an active lifestyle impacts their health and then share that information with our fellow zoos and researchers studying elephants in the wild.”

About the Dallas Zoo’s Golden Girls.

Mama (born January 1970): Mama is often called an old soul. This curious mother and grandmother is known for her sweet tooth, favoring sugar cane, and tidy eating habits (see her rake food into a neat pile and daintily scoop it up). A childhood injury left Mama with a small hole in the end of her trunk, which she has learned to compress while eating.

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 having a pedicure and 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 Golden Girls’ New Home

The Elephant Savanna.  The south habitat is primary territory of the Dallas Zoo’s Golden Girls, a matriarchal family of five 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 & Observation Deck.  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, enjoy a demonstration on the insects of the savanna, and watch the elephant tracker to learn how these giants spend their day. From the beautiful deck, take in the best view in the habitat and overlook the entire 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 seven-foot-deep sand floors is the perfect place for elephant interaction. To stimulate these accomplished diggers, zookeepers can bury food and toys in the sand for the elephants to find, or they can create hills for them to cross as they enter and leave the barn. The building has a seven-and-a-half-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 fire hose baskets, allowing the elephants to reach up and collect food with their trunks, an activity they would do in the wild.

About the Dallas Zoo:  The Dallas Zoo, an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, is the largest zoological experience in Texas featuring a 106-acre park, thousands of animals, and an education department that offers programs for all ages. The official airline of the Dallas Zoo is American Airlines. The Zoo is located at 650 S. R.L. Thornton Freeway (I-35 at Marsalis). Admission is $15 for ages 12-64, $12 for ages 3-11 and 65+, and free for ages 2 and younger and Dallas Zoological Society (DZS) members. The Zoo is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, download the free iPhone app, visit, or call 469 554 7500. 


About the Giants of the Savanna.  Go on Safari at the Dallas Zoo. The Dallas Zoo’s Giants of the Savanna habitat, open since May 2010, provides an interactive experience for guests built around the many different species of animals that call the savanna home: elephants, giraffes, impalas, zebras, ostriches, lions, warthogs, red river hogs, guinea fowl, and cheetahs. Learn more about these animals while experiencing the unique aspects of their habitat firsthand. Giants of the Savanna has received high praise from researchers, zoo industry professionals, and Zoo guests. It was recognized for Significant Achievement with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ 2011 Exhibit Award.