Tennessee Bound

Osh is Moving

Osh the African Elephant is moving to Tennessee this fall. Why? How?

On July 9, 2024, Oakland Zoo announced that Osh (male, 30), the only remaining African elephant living at the Zoo, will be moving later this Fall to his new home at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (The Sanctuary), an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited facility. Donna, the last female African elephant who lived at the Zoo, moved to the same location in September 2023.

Why is Osh moving? He needs companions.

Graphic of a map showcasing Osh's travel across the United States.

The decision to move Osh to The Sanctuary was made after careful consideration and consultation with the AZA's African Elephant Taxon Advisory Group (TAG). After more than a year of discussions, it was agreed that this was the best decision for his wellbeing. As an AZA-accredited facility that ensures the same gold standard of care, the availability of other possible social companions, and the decades-long relationship with Oakland Zoo, the Sanctuary provides the most suitable home for Osh for the rest of his life.

Osh the Elephant walking around the zoo.

“Although it's difficult to say farewell to Osh, we're filled with joy knowing he's found a new home at The Sanctuary. He will have the opportunity to socialize and develop relationships with many other elephants over his lifetime. Something that we could not offer him here. Those of us who know and love him, including our Oakland Zoo community, will miss him terribly.”

Colleen Kinzley, VP of Animal Care, Conservation and Research

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about Osh's departure and elephant conservation efforts at Oakland Zoo.

Why is Osh moving to Tennessee?

The leadership and the management of the Elephant Barn at Oakland Zoo followed the recommendation and decision-making process with the AZA’s African Elephant Taxon Advisory Group (TAG). In the best interest of Osh, he is moving to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (The Sanctuary), an AZA-accredited sanctuary and the nation’s largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically for Asian and African elephants.

Our primary reason for choosing the Sanctuary for Osh (and Donna) is the extensive social opportunity throughout his lifetime. The Sanctuary has devoted thousands of acres to these elephant habitats, creating space for many elephants. They have designed their habitats to offer flexibility for elephants to socialize with different individuals and/or groups.

Oakland Zoo has maintained a strong relationship with The Sanctuary for multiple decades. This relationship significantly influenced our decision to send Donna to The Sanctuary last year, who is doing well in her new forever home. The Sanctuary became the best decision for Osh's overall wellbeing as an AZA-accredited facility that ensures the same gold standard of care and the extensive opportunity social companions.

Why didn't we bring more elephants to Oakland Zoo?

For the past year, we have worked with AZA on a nationwide search, yet no compatible African elephants in protected care were available now or anytime soon to join Osh here at Oakland Zoo. We currently cannot provide the optimal care and space for multi-generational herds that would meet the welfare and social needs required for elephants.

When is Osh moving?

Osh will move to Tennessee in the fall of this year.

How will Osh move to Tennessee?

Moving Osh, who weighs 15,000 pounds and stands 11 feet 2 inches tall, requires significant time and preparation to ensure his comfort during the transition. He will be transported in a specially designed, air-conditioned trailer, providing enough space for the 40-hour journey to Tennessee. In the upcoming months, the Animal Care team at Oakland Zoo will hold voluntary training sessions to prepare Osh for the journey. Members of The Sanctuary’s animal care and veterinary staff will also visit Oakland Zoo to connect with his current staff and begin building their relationships with Osh. The Zoo will also launch a half-million-dollar campaign to support this transition and its commitment to conservation for the year.

Will Osh get the opportunity to be with the other elephants and Donna?

One of the many reasons we chose The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee for Osh and Donna is the extensive social opportunity throughout his lifetime. Upon his arrival, he will immediately be able to communicate with and smell other elephants; they often communicate using low-frequency vocalizations over many miles. Two new 3,000-square-foot bull barns are under construction for Artie, an African elephant male aged 41, and Osh at The Elephant Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary has devoted thousands of acres to elephant habitats, creating space for many elephants. It has designed its habitats to offer flexibility for elephants to socialize with different individuals and/or groups.

The barns at the Sanctuary share a common area and connected habitats. Osh will have the opportunity to get to know Artie across fence lines. After settling into the new barns, habitats, and with the care staff, Osh will also have the opportunity for introductions to African females. We are hopeful that Osh and Donna will have the chance to interact.

Will Oakland Zoo still be active in elephant conservation?

The Zoo has maintained an elephant program for 75 years, which has evolved into the innovative and industry-leading program it is today. With a multi-decade commitment to elephant conservation in the wild and advocating for elephant welfare under human care, the Zoo sees this move as a pivotal moment to reaffirm its commitment to elephants.

“Oakland Zoo’s ‘elephant program of the future’ requires much more than our habitat and facilities can provide today for this species to thrive inhuman care. Our commitment to supporting the success of elephants remains unwavering, although our participation in their success may need to evolve,” says Nik Dehejiia, CEO of Oakland Zoo.

The Zoo will continue to support its elephant partners who combat poaching, collaborate with communities to launch initiatives that stop the illegal wildlife trade, and promote coexistence with this iconic endangered species.

What is Oakland Zoo doing for the wellbeing of elephants?

For decades, Oakland Zoo has been actively involved in initiatives and actions to protect captive elephants from exploitation, mistreatment, mismanagement, and inadequate facilities. Read more about how we are taking action here.

How can I say goodbye to Osh?

Osh has been a resident at the Oakland Zoo for 20 years. Over those years, he has been a part of many of our guests' and followers’ Zoo memories. With this early announcement, we wanted to give ample time to those who wanted to say goodbye to Osh before he moves to Tennessee. Guests are encouraged to visit Osh before he leaves this Fall. Follow us for more info on specific events that will highlight opportunities to visit Osh.

Can't visit Osh in person before the fall? Check out our Elephant Cam!

How can I stay up to date about Osh and the future of the elephant habitat at Oakland Zoo?

Follow Oakland Zoo on Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter) for more information on specific events highlighting opportunities to visit Osh and updates as he prepares for his journey to Tennessee, as well as our ongoing plans for the elephant habitat at Oakland Zoo.

How can I support Oakland Zoo through this transitional time?

Your gift today will support Osh elephant in a safe transition to his new home in Tennessee and drive conservation and welfare work for elephants worldwide. Click here to donate or for more information.

Celebrate Osh.

Osh celebrating their thirtieth birthday.

Share your stories.

Do you have a favorite memory of Osh, Lisa, Donna, or any of the beloved elephants that have been part of the Oakland Zoo family over the years? Send your memories, photos, and videos to web@oaklandzoo.org. We may include your memory in a celebratory video or social media post!

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