Elephants Worldwide

Mikki and Conservation

The Louisville Zoo’s mission is to “better the bond between people and our planet.”  We strive to educate and inspire, helping to shape our collective understanding of what is at stake in our quickly changing world, and to guide us in finding ways to protect and preserve wildlife and wild places.  It is our responsibility and our passion.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love,  we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”
— Baba Dioum, Senegalese Conservationist, 1968

With nearly 800,000 visitors to the Zoo each year, many of them young people, conservation action takes root right here at your Zoo and in our community. Each personal connection with wildlife potentially fueling new passions to learn better ways to build a sustainable future – allowing for human development while finding smarter ways to manage our resources and protect our planet.

An elephant in the remnant wild

Were you aware that by visiting the Zoo or becoming a Zoo member, you are actively participating in international conservation efforts as well?  A dollar from each membership and 25 cents from each admission ticket is reserved for critical, focused conservation efforts. The Zoo researches conservation partners on a regular basis to make sure our collective efforts are being spearheaded by trustworthy conservation organizations. Currently we are partnering with Wildlife Conservation Society and 96 Elephants and the International Elephant Foundation.  Please read more about them and all our international efforts to protect elephants.

Elephants are considered a vulnerable species. In the remnant wild, African Elephants are being lost every day due to poaching operations and the collection of illegal ivory. Mikki’s pregnancy was planned as a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative program of all accredited zoos in North America with elephants. The plan promotes the survival of elephant species into the future by providing linkages between zoo animal “ambassadors” and the conservation of their counterparts under protective management in the remnant wild.

This birth will be significant in helping to contribute to a more sustainable elephant population in accredited zoos. AZA zoos are important advocates and participants in world-wide conservation efforts of this magnificent and vulnerable species.

Genetics also plays an important role in why Mikki’s pregnancy is so important.  Mikki came to the Louisville Zoo from a culling operation in Africa in 1987.  If not rescued, she would have been killed. Genetic diversity is critical in sustaining a healthy population as it increases the likelihood that the members will be better able to adapt and survive. Because Mikki was wild born, her DNA is not related to any other elephants, so any offspring she has adds to the diversity of the entire elephant population.

What is a culling operation? Culling operations are held for a number of reasons. It most typically involves removing an animal from an over-populated herd, sometimes by euthanasia, or as in Mikki’s case, removal via a better option. This is done to prevent the elephant population from destroying the habitat that provides the food source which can lead to herd starvation. It can also be done by wildlife management in response to limited habitat space or human settlements encroaching into the animal’s territory resulting in human safety issues.