Controversy continues after elephants land in Omaha

Posted By: Kelsey Murphy

It was a smooth landing for six elephants, Friday night, heading to Omaha.

Their arrival follows some turbulence between animal rights activists and the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

The elephants will soon be part of the zoo’s newest attraction called African Grassland.

"This is a multigenerational kind of effort here and a long term effort here,” Dennis Pate, Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Director, said.

A total of 17 elephants were transferred from Swaziland, South Africa and taken to Dallas, Wichita, and Omaha.

With them comes controversy here in Nebraska. Friends of Animals, a non–profit animal rights activist group, calls these animals “The Stolen 18”. They filed a lawsuit after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permitted the transfer, and they say the zoos moved the elephants ahead of a scheduled court date to keep the animals in Swaziland.

"This is something that we are going to make sure that everyone who visits those animals over there lifetime knows their story," Michael Harris, Director of Friends of Animals, said.

Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo has a different take. They say the environment they created offers a more stable atmosphere than the drought in Swaziland.

Even more, the Omaha Zoo says it will be an economic boost.

"Its going to help improve the population in the U.S.,  it’s the largest import since the 1980’s, Pate, said.

The last time the Henry Doorly Zoo had elephants was in 2011.

The new elephants will be part of the new $73 million, 28 acre African Grassland Exhibit, the largest project in the zoos history.

Zoo officials say it could be around 30 days before the elephants are available to the public.