Obesity is not just a problem for American humans; a recent study found that three-fourths of North American zoo elephants are overweight as well. And now, plans are in the works to create a 4,900-acre preserve that would keep African elephants healthy, in shape and making babies. Part pachyderm spa and part research center, the elephant preserve would start with three to five elephants and let them grow into a herd of 12 to 15 over a few decades, reports The Wall Street Journal.
But wait; aren’t elephants supposed to be pleasantly plump? “The general public are familiar with Disney and the tale of Dumbo,” said Deborah Olson, executive director of the International Elephant Foundation, a conservation group. “They’re drawn as round creatures, so the general public has this conception that they’re round instead of what they truly look like in the wild.”
The key to weight loss for elephants may sound familiar: diet and exercise. Of which supplying a healthy regimen for both is one of the aims of the planned preserve. With the purchase of property nearly complete in the rolling, grassy hills of Northern California, the proposal includes providing more space for captive animals, research, and inviting school groups to learn about African elephants, whose numbers are threatened because of poaching in the wild. In addition, there will be an emphasis on breeding since experts are concerned that not enough reproduction is currently occurring to replenish an aging population.
If county officials approve the plan, the preserve will be overseen by the Oakland Zoo and funded by the Ndovo Foundation, a new entity created by Roger McNamee, the maverick co-founder of private-equity firm Elevation Partners. Ndovo is from the Swahili word for elephant. A foundation spokeswoman said that the preserve was, “dedicated to conservation and protection of African elephants. Its first project will seek to redefine elephant captivity in a manner that respects and protects their nature.”
McNamee, also a touring musician, apparently has a soft spot for elephants. According to the foundation spokeswoman, Dr. Seuss’s ever-earnest Horton the Elephant was his childhood role model.
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