Fat Camp for Elephants in the Works

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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Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Sara Sezun
Sara S.2 years ago

This is certainly a better alternative than an average zoo, but it cannot take the place of saving elephants in the wild--their original home.

John B.
John B.2 years ago

Thanks Kar for the interesting article.
Spammer flagged!

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.2 years ago

A confrontation between elephants and a spammer? Dale, I love it! :)

Dale O.

Elephants most certainly require a lot of space to be well exercised and happy.

Spammer flagged, I wonder what elephants would do if confronted with a spammer in the way?

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.2 years ago

Reading the comments on Care2, I’m sure that American zoos are the miserable old-fashioned sort, with tiny enclosures and no thought given to the animals’ well-being. Yes, by all means get those closed! But here in Britain I’ve been told that for a long time the emphasis is to be on big enclosures and lots of thought given to the animals’ comfort and well-being so they will breed. Zoos have resident vets. They contribute towards the conservation of animals in the wild. Exchanges of young animals take place between zoos so inbreeding is less of a problem.

Of course the aim is to release animals into the wild, IF there are safe places in the wild to release them! IF!!! IF!!! IF!!!

Gerald Durrell, who founded Jersey Zoo, said the happiest day of his life would be the day he could closed the zoo because it wasn’t needed any more, but *sadly* it was still needed!


Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.2 years ago


I’ve read here that ‘all zoos should be illegal’. This apparently includes zoos breeding animals in serious danger of extinction from poaching! Some of this zoo-bashing reads as though people want to turn animals loose in areas where they are simply not safe!

We know elephants are very intelligent. Supposing we could offer them a choice and ask which they would prefer? ‘You can live as your ancestors have always lived, roaming as far as you want, but there is a very serious risk of many, or even *all* of you being horribly murdered!’ or ‘You can live in this secure place, where the same view could get boring, but your lives are safe and we will do everything we possibly can for your well-being? We’ve enlarged the boundaries and we are sorry we can’t push them back even further, but you will Definitely Be Treated With Respect and Not Murdered!!!’ Which would they choose?

I know the response most people would give...

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson2 years ago


Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.2 years ago

Jaime your neighbor's sister-in-law makes all this money....but you apparently don't! Something's missing isn't it?

HONESTY! Now clear off! I've flagged you!

Jordan G.
Jordan G.2 years ago

I may join them.