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April 15, 2024

Good Luck, Chuck!

Beloved Bachelor Relocating as Part of Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan

In a heartfelt and collaborative endeavor to contribute to the conservation of Endangered Asian elephants, we will soon bid bon voyage to one of our beloved residents, Chuck. This majestic pachyderm, known for his playful and highly social personality, is set to embark on a new journey to start his own family. In a few weeks, Chuck will move to Houston Zoo, another zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), based on the recommendation of the Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP).

Chuck's departure marks a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to ensure the survival of Asian elephants, a species facing numerous threats in the wildincluding habitat loss, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict. By participating in the SSP, accredited zoos collaborate to manage the population of animals in human care, with the goal of maintaining healthy genetic diversity and promoting successful breeding programs. Zoos accredited by the AZA, including Houston Zoo and Denver Zoo, regularly participate in animal moves like this for the greater good of the species in our collective care. 

Asian Elephant "Bull School"

Learning the ropes at "Bull School"

This is also a significant milestone for our elephant program in Toyota Elephant Passage (TEP), as Chuck is the first elephant leaving Denver Zoo’s all-bull program since the opening of TEP in 2012. Toyota Elephant Passage was specifically designed to support the needs of male elephants in human care—and has everything a bachelor herd could ever want or need.  

While elephant herds are generally matriarchal with young male elephants leaving the herds when they enter maturity, ongoing field research has shown that those young male elephants, while becoming more solitary as they age, are incredibly social during the years after they leave their matriarchal herd. They are also often seen in the presence of older, adult bull elephants, who are essential in helping them learn how to navigate their worlds.  

This is the environment that the elephant program at Denver Zoo replicates. With 54-year-old Groucho as the fearless leader of our bachelor herd, our juvenile elephants learn everything they need to know to be appropriate adult bulls. We often refer to our elephant herd as “bull school” due to the countless opportunities our young males—Bodhi, Billy, Jake, Chuck and Duncan—have to learn from Groucho.   

In 2018, Chuck and his half-brother Jake moved to Denver Zoo from Ontario, Canada. Since that move, Chuck has become a cherished member of our Asian elephant herd, and his Animal Care Specialists agree that it’s been wonderful to be part of his journey to becoming a well-rounded adult. Asian elephants become sexually mature around the ages of 10 and 13—so at 15, Chuck is ready to turn the page!

Asian Elephant Chuck

 

PREPARING FOR CHUCK’S NEXT CHAPTER

Ensuring Chuck's well-being and readiness for his transition to a new environment involves meticulous care and training by Denver Zoo's dedicated team of Animal Care Specialists.

Training plays a crucial role in how we care for our elephants every day and is especially important as we prepare Chuck for his move. Through operant conditioning with a focus on positive reinforcement, our dedicated elephant care team works closely with Chuck to teach him the behaviors necessary for his journey and future reproductive success. These include crate training, which allows Chuck to feel comfortable and secure during transportation, as well as a wide variety of husbandry behaviors that enable veterinary care and health monitoring—including radiographs of his feet and tusks and blood draws. The elephant team has also prepared him by teaching him a lot of the cues and routines of the program he is moving to, ensuring his transition to Texas is as stress free and smooth as possible.   

Chuck's relocation underscores the critical role that zoos play in elephant conservation. By providing a safe and enriching environment for elephants, zoos contribute to public education, scientific research, and conservation efforts aimed at protecting this iconic species in the wild. Chuck's departure from Denver Zoo represents a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness between in situ and ex situ populations, highlighting the collective responsibility to safeguard the future of Asian elephants for generations to come. 

Chuck's Lasting legacy

As Chuck prepares to bid farewell to Denver Zoo, his legacy as an ambassador for elephant conservation will continue to inspire our staff, volunteers and guests. His journey to start a new family highlights the importance of collaborative efforts and dedication to ensuring the long-term survival of Asian elephants, both in human care and in their native habitats. 

For updates on Chuck's new chapter, be sure to follow us on FacebookInstagramX and LinkedIn. 

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