It is with sadness that we announce the death of one of our elephants, Nala.
Following European breeding recommendations Nala was travelling with Tana, a second elephant, as part of a planned transportation to Zoo Parc de Beauval in France in late 2017. This move was the second of two transfers, the first of which took place successfully in July 2017.
We worked with experts in elephant welfare over the last 18 months to prepare for this move creating a purpose built transport crate as well as working closely with the elephants to familiarise them with the process of entering and leaving the transport. Our team of keepers and vet travelled with the elephants to closely monitor them through the journey but unfortunately Nala died soon after leaving Knowsley Safari.
A number of the team continued the journey to France with Tana ensuring that she reached her new home successfully. The focus of the team since Nala’s death has been to ensure that Tana settles into her new environment and to plan her introduction to her new herd which includes Juba and Ashanti who left Knowsley Safari in July. All three elephants are now comfortably settled with their new herd.
A full post mortem examination was carried out to determine the cause of Nala’s death, the results of which have now been received and despite an extensive investigation, a conclusive cause of death could not be determined. What we do know is that she had no underlying health issues and that she collapsed and died very suddenly.
The results of the post mortem have been shared with elephant vets around Europe to help develop any possible learnings for the future.
While there is always a risk when transporting any animal, Nala’s death was a shock for all the team involved who had worked closely with the elephants to make this a smooth transition. We have tried to answer any questions our guests may have below:
Questions and Answers
Q: What happened?
A: Nala, one of Knowsley Safari’s African elephants died during a planned move to her new home at the ZooParc de Beauval, France.
Q: Why were you moving her?
A: There have been a number of developments in elephant research over the past 10 years meaning that updates to our existing elephant house are needed to ensure the welfare of our herd in the future. Plans are underway for a new state of the art elephant facility however it was felt that our elephants would benefit from a state of the art environment much sooner than ours would be ready. Therefore, after careful consideration we felt it was important to move our elephants to be part of stable herd.
Q: What preparation was taken with the elephants ahead of the move?
A: We worked with experts in elephant welfare over the last 18 months to prepare our elephants for this move. There have been months of familiarisation with the elephants and their keepers using protected contact training, alongside renowned elephant consultant Alan Roocroft, to prepare the elephants for the move to ZooParc de Beauval in France.
Q: Why did they have to be moved to France? Could no facility in the UK take them?
A: A number of potential homes for Ashanti, Nala, Juba & Tots were extensively reviewed and following a thorough assessment, the habitat at ZooParc De Beauval was selected as the best fit for our herd.
Q: Had you tried this form of transport before?
A: The team at Knowsley Safari are extremely experienced in elephant transfers and worked with experts in elephant welfare throughout. This form of transportation, provides the highest welfare standard for transport by familiarising the elephants with the process of entering the transportation crates in a positive manner. This method has been used successfully by Knowsley Safari for the transfer of four elephants over the past three years.
With the welfare of the elephants in mind we chose this transport method for the first time to move Buta in 2014 and following its success, Juba and Ashanti were transferred to Zoo Parc De Beauval using this method in July 2017. Tana also successfully made the journey to France in October 2017.
Q: Why didn’t all the elephants go at once?
A: Our expert keepers worked in partnership with expert consultants to plan the move with the welfare of the whole herd in mind. It was decided to phase the move to allow for individual animal focus and care.
Q: How high was the risk of this happening to the elephant in transit?
A: There is always an element of risk when moving an animal of any size. However the team in place were experienced with moving elephants and we worked with expert elephant consultant Alan Roocroft throughout the process to ensure that every reasonable step was taken to protect our elephants, both in the training stage and during transit. The welfare and safety of the animals in our care is always our main priority and every step had been taken to minimise the potential risk.
Q: What are the results of the post mortem?
A: A full post mortem has been carried out to determine the cause of Nala’s death, but despite this a conclusive cause of death could not be found. What we do know is that Nala did not have any underlying health problems, and that her collapse and death was very sudden. There is no evidence to suggest she struggled in any way. The results of the post mortem have been shared with elephant vets around Europe to help develop any possible learnings for the future.
Q: Was she given drugs that could have contributed to her death?
A: Nala had been given a sedative shortly before loading in order to help her remain relaxed. This was not to anaesthetise her, she was able to stand, walk, eat and drink and respond normally to her keepers and had been doing so in the period leading up to her collapse . It is impossible to say whether this played a part in her death, but she had been given the same drug at the same dose for veterinary procedures in the past without suffering any adverse effects.
Q: What veterinary opinion was sought before travel began?
A: Knowsley Safari’s vet has worked with the elephants for over nine years. The elephants had been closely monitored throughout the months of the crate training which the vet was involved in, and received regular veterinary check ups during this time, as well as on the day of transport. In addition to this all four elephants were assessed by a team of external veterinary specialists prior to any transport plans being made.