Saying Farewell to Osh: Oakland Zoo Prepares for the Departure of Their Beloved Male African Elephant

Oakland Zoo
July 9, 2024
Osh, Male African Elephant, Age 30; Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

Oakland, CA, July 9, 2024 … Oakland Zoo announced today 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 last September.

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 while difficult and heartbreaking, 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.

“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,” says Colleen Kinzley, VP of Animal Care, Conservation and Research.

For the past year, the Zoo has worked with AZA on a nationwide search, yet no compatible African elephants in protected care were available now or anytime soon to join Osh at Oakland Zoo. One of the many reasons the Zoo has chosen The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee for Osh and Donna is their ability to provide extensive social opportunities.

Upon his arrival in Tennessee in the Fall, he will immediately be able to communicate with and smell other elephants. Elephants 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. Osh will have the opportunity to get to know Artie across fence lines. After settling into the new barns and habitats, and with the care staff at The Sanctuary, Osh will also have the opportunity for introductions to African female elephants. We are hopeful that Osh and Donna will have the opportunity to reunite.

Elephant Barn Staff with Osh; Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

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 one year.

With Osh’s departure, the Zoo can explore different options for Osh’s current habitat, including bringing in a new species to take residence. The Zoo must invest significantly in renovating the 35-year-old habitat (including the barn and behind-the-scenes areas) and evaluate the long-term wellbeing of whichever species it commits to. Envisioning a new, state-of-the-art facility will allow the Zoo to provide the highest level of care to any species it chooses to commit to. This endeavor may take at least 18 months to complete.

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 35-year 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.

Osh with City of Oakland Zoo; Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

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

Osh, Eating Acacia in Habitat; Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

Osh has lived at the Oakland Zoo for 20 years. During this time, many guests and followers of the Zoo have made memories with him. Throughout different stages of life, from field trips to family vacations and engagements, Osh and other African elephants have called the Zoo home and have been a part of Zoo community members’ lives, creating strong bonds with the elephants at Oakland Zoo. The Zoo wanted to honor the bonds people have formed with Osh by announcing his move early. This early announcement of his departure provides ample time for those who wish to say goodbye before he moves to Tennessee. Guests are encouraged to visit Osh before he leaves this Fall.

The Zoo urges guests and followers to submit their Oakland Zoo Elephant Memories by emailing photos and videos of the elephants throughout the years to

The Zoo is accepting donations for its elephant campaign at

Follow the Zoo on Facebook, Instagram, X, and check out their website,, for more information on specific events highlighting opportunities to visit Osh and updates as he prepares for his journey to Tennessee.


Isabella Linares

Oakland Zoo



Oakland Zoo, home to more than 850 native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC); a non-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community in Taking Action for Wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, the CSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.


Located on 3,060 acres in Hohenwald, Tennessee, The Elephant Sanctuary is the nation’s largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically for Asian and African elephants. Founded in 1995, The Sanctuary has provided 33 elephants with individualized care, the companionship of a herd, and the opportunity to live out their lives in a safe haven dedicated to their well-being. The Sanctuary is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and has been dually recognized through accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. The Elephant Sanctuary is currently home to 12 elephant residents.  

To learn more about The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, please visit our website at  We welcome you to stay engaged and observe the elephants via our live-streaming EleCams at, and connect with us via social media.