How easy it’s been to take two of the bigger stars of Lee Richardson Zoo — African elephants Missy and Kimba — for granted.
Future visitors to Garden City’s wonderful zoo may not be so fortunate when it comes to admiring the majestic pair, as the zoo’s elephant exhibit is in jeopardy.
Currently home to the two older, nonbreeding female elephants in Missy and Kimba, the zoo could lose the exhibit, as accredited zoos will be required to have family groups or a bull elephant in the future.
The current elephant barn and yard can accommodate three females, which now meets minimum requirements for accredited zoos. It’s not, however, large enough for a family unit or a bull elephant.
So, the Garden City Commission must decide what to do, and is expected to address the issue at its public meeting today.
It won’t be an easy decision.
There has been talk of decades-long companions Missy and Kimba going as a pair to another zoo — assuming they are healthy enough for such a move — to let them adjust to a new home and other elephants.
Commissioners also could wait until one elephant dies, and relocate the other to a different zoo. But, knowing elephants are social animals, leaving one alone would be a disservice.
Should commissioners decide, as zoo management understandably has recommended, to begin the process of soliciting proposals for a new home for Missy and Kimba, a committee would be created to prepare a recommendation.
City commissioners then could choose to select a new zoo for the elephants, or revisit the issue.
Meanwhile, the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo recently issued a statement pledging to work toward bringing elephants back within a decade, should Missy and Kimba depart. That’s encouraging, and should be a high priority for the city.
No one — from zoo staff to zoo patrons — wants to lose Missy and Kimba. But considering the restrictions for zoos, the elephants’ best interests must come first.
They’ve served the zoo and community well, and shouldn’t be subjected to a potentially inhumane situation in one elephant being left alone because of a fear of losing the popular exhibit.