August 20, 2013 / 9:00 PM / 5 years ago

Calgary elephants swap Canadian winters for warmer Washington

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - After decades of enduring frigid Canadian winters, three female elephants from Calgary zoo have found a new home in the gentler climes of Washington D.C., zoo staff said on Tuesday.

Asian elephants Kamala and Swarna - who have been in Calgary since 1976 - and Maharani, Kamala’s daughter, will move to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington next April, to form a herd with four other elephants already living there.

Winters in Calgary last from November to April and temperatures can drop as low as -40 degrees centigrade (-40 Fahrenheit), meaning the elephants can only spend a limited amount of time outside.

“Our climate is not very conducive to them being outside for about half the year,” said Calgary Zoo communications manager Laurie Skene.

“We also believe they should be part of a bigger group. Geographically a big part of the zoo is situated on an island so we do not have space to expand to accommodate more elephants.”

The zoo, which lies on an island on the Bow River, was hit by flooding in June during torrential rainfall across southern Alberta, although the elephants were able to stay in their enclosure.

Earlier this year Calgary Zoo announced its bull elephant, Spike, born in Miami, would be moving back to Florida as part of their program to rehome the herd in warmer regions.

Toronto Zoo is also moving its three elephants to a sanctuary in California later this year.

Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Sandra Maler

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