African elephant to be added to herd at Henry Doorly Zoo

African elephant to be added to herd at Henry Doorly Zoo
An African elephant named Callee is coming to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium from Birmingham, Alabama. BIRMINGHAM ZOO

Callee will move into his new Omaha home Wednesday, and Henry Doorly Zoo officials hope the bull African elephant could soon be a dad.

The Omaha zoo’s African elephant herd is growing by one — to a total of seven — with the addition of Callee from the Birmingham Zoo.

Zoo Director Dennis Pate stressed Tuesday that it’s urgent for Callee to breed. Three of the zoo’s five female elephants have been “in and out of heat,” he said.

“This isn’t something where we can just be patient with them,” he said. “We need to get these cows bred.”

The zoo added Louie, a male elephant, to its herd in 2017.

Despite Louie’s fertility at the time of his move, Pate said he hasn’t been “up to the task” to breeding.

The zoo looked at bringing in an elephant breeding expert to help the elephants mate, but with only four available nationwide, the zoo decided that bringing in Callee was the best option.

“He’s observed breeding behavior from his dad and understands the social behavior of elephants,” Pate said of Callee. “He understands hierarchy, appears to be fertile … (and is) three years older than Louie and about a thousand pounds heavier.”

Callee is expected to arrive at the zoo between 5 and 6 a.m. Wednesday.

His move to Omaha came under the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums species survival plan. The goal of the plan is to help sustain endangered species’ populations in zoos.

Callee’s new home in Omaha boasts the largest indoor elephant herd space in North America and includes a 150,000-gallon pool. According to the zoo, the indoor and outdoor space for its now seven elephants totals more than five acres.

In September 2017, Warren, a bull elephant, died during a procedure. He had been the lone male in Omaha’s herd until the arrival of Louie in the summer of 2017.

Warren was part of an import of 17 elephants in 2016 from Swaziland to zoos in Omaha, Wichita and Dallas. When six of those animals arrived in Omaha in March 2016, it ended the zoo’s five-year drought without elephants.

Omaha’s newest elephant was born at the Pittsburgh Zoo. He turns 19 in September and weighs approximately 8,500 pounds. He has lived at the Birmingham Zoo since moving from Pittsburgh in February 2011.