Elephants are the world's largest land mammal, but the Asian elephant is slightly smaller than its African cousin.

Elephant ears radiate heat to help keep these large animals cool, but sometimes that isn't enough. Elephants are fond of water and enjoy showering by sucking water into their trunks and spraying it all over themselves.

An elephant's trunk is actually a long nose with many functions. It is used for smelling, breathing, trumpeting, drinking, and also for grabbing things -especially a potential meal. The trunk alone contains about 100,000 different muscles. Asian elephants have a finger-like feature on the end of their trunk that they can use to grab small items. (African elephants have two.)

Wild habitat is diminishing and wild elephant populations are increasingly coming into conflict with people with disastrous results.

Elephant Move FAQ

We will always put the welfare of animals first and last November we announced our heart-breaking decision to move elephants Burma and Anjalee - because due to circumstances beyond our control we could no longer give them both the sustainable elephant family herd they need for their long-term future health and wellbeing. See full story here

Anjalee (14) will be moving to Taronga Western Plains Zoo, in Dubbo New South Wales to join an elephant family herd of two cows, one calf and three bulls of varying ages. Burma (38) will head to Australia Zoo in Queensland, to join their all-female herd – currently four elephants.

Moving large animals like elephants is a complex undertaking, and while we are making good progress, there’s still a lot to be worked through – and it’s not possible to give specific dates at present.

It’s essential that we send them to the most suitable home, not necessarily the same home. Anjalee and Burma are two very different elephants from different backgrounds, at different life stages and with different needs. Their respective homes are all about meeting these very different needs to ensure their best future health and wellbeing. This means giving Anjalee the very best opportunity to breed – important to her long-term reproductive health and long-term wellbeing and giving Burma (now post-productive) the ability to play her natural role of ‘Aunty’ to younger females.

Anjalee and Burma have a friendship and enjoy each other’s company, but they don’t share a maternal bond like a mother and daughter would, and at times like their own space as well.

The Zoo’s Elephant keepers, all of whom have years of experience and close relationships with both elephants, will share staying on at Taronga Western Plains Zoo and Australia Zoo respectively. This will provide Anjalee and Burma with that reassuringly familiar presence as they work with their Australian colleagues to fully settle both elephants in. They build similar relationships with the elephants at their new homes.

Anjalee and Burma are going to different accredited zoo homes in different States within Australia, and therefore will not be travelling together.

Quarantine is a standard MPI requirement for any animals leaving the Zoo, so Anjalee and Burma will have a pre-export quarantine period. The great news is that visitors will still be able to see them as they normally would at the Zoo’s Elephant Clearing up until they leave.

Breeding is important for the long-term health and wellbeing of female elephants. Anjalee needs to breed soon to avoid the long-term reproductive health issues that can face female elephants if they don’t breed.

Anjalee will be joining a family herd of two cows, a calf and three bulls of varying ages at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, and Burma will be joining an all-female herd of four elephants of varying ages. Both Auckland Zoo’s elephant keepers and the elephant teams at these two zoos are all experts in elephant behaviour and know their respective elephants extremely well. Initially Anjalee and Burma will be given visual contact with member of their new elephant families. The elephant keepers will be led by the elephants, who will show the keepers when they are ready to be fully integrated. This can be a quick process or can take a number of weeks.

Yes, when Anjalee and Burma move they will be accompanied by Auckland Zoo’s highly skilled and dedicated elephant keepers. Our elephant keepers, who remain employed by Auckland Zoo (and will be split into two teams) will then be staying on for a period of time with Anjalee and Burma at their respective new zoo homes. This will provide them with that reassuringly familiar presence and continuity of care as they work with their Australian colleagues to fully settle Anjalee and Burma into their new home.

The elephants will each be moved in individual purpose-built crates and transported via aircraft (commercial cargo flights) and road transport. Going by aircraft minimises their overall length of travel time. Throughout they will be accompanied by our specialist elephant keepers and expert veterinary staff who’ll be able to monitor them throughout their journeys. Zoos like Auckland have decades of knowledge, expertise and experience in moving animals, and huge planning and preparation goes into any animal relocation. Months of training and conditioning will go into getting both Anjalee and Burma used to their crates so that these become their safe havens for their journeys.

The changing circumstances beyond our control and insurmountable challenges we’ve encountered over the past few years to building an elephant family herd structure here at Auckland Zoo, mean we no longer have the supporting circumstances to ensure these elephants’ health and wellbeing into the future, and it’s difficult to see a path where we could provide this opportunity.

We are so proud that through our world-class elephant programme, led by our expert elephant team who are truly exceptional in the level of skill, experience, dedication and care they provide, Burma and Anjalee have wonderful lives here at Auckland Zoo.

Although we cannot build the family herd we had envisaged here in Auckland, we are fulfilling our commitment to them by finding them a new home at another accredited zoo overseas with an excellent elephant programme. We’re currently working with our international zoo colleagues to secure the best possible home overseas that meets both Anjalee and Burma’s respective needs for their long-term wellbeing.This includes giving Anjalee every best opportunity to successfully breed and enables both Anjalee and Burma to be with other elephants in the multigenerational family they need.

Yes. Auckland Zoo continues to support elephant conservation through great projects in Sri Lanka (the Biodiversity & Elephant Conservation Trust and the Centre for Conservation Research) and in Sumatra (the Sumatran Ranger Project) through the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund, which reviews projects annually. To date, Auckland Zoo has contributed over $4 million to funding conservation projects conserving wildlife in the wild – here in Aotearoa and around the world.

In visiting Auckland Zoo you are joining us in supporting and helping conserve elephants and many other threatened wildlife species and their wild homes, so thank you!

Our incredibly skilled and dedicated Elephant team, who are also experienced with working with other species, remain employed by Auckland Zoo. They will travel with Anjalee and Burma to their new home and stay with them for as long as needed. In being with Anjalee and Burma, our elephant keepers can provide that important familiar presence and continuity of care as they work with their fellow elephant experts to carefully transition them into their new home.

Elephant Clearing will become part of the Africa Safari Track, and we hope to have rhino moving in by this summer.

Now 38 years old, Burma, who arrived at Auckland Zoo in 1990, is the elder of these two beautiful pachyderms. She has matured into a lovely gentle elephant, and while still very energetic and playful, is slightly less mischievous than Anjalee!

Anjalee was born in 2006 and is now the equivalent of a teenager. She has boundless energy and curiosity, and since arriving at Auckland Zoo in 2015 has grown in confidence, health, independence and size!


Burma and Anjalee's move to new homes

Elephant team leader Andre Coers discusses the complex reasons behind the important decision to move Burma and Anjalee to Australian zoos.


Keeper Chat - Andrew introduces our Asian elephants!

We catch up with our beautiful Asian elephant girls, Anjalee and Burma