The Calgary Zoo announced a plan Thursday to move its four elephants out of the facility in the next few years.

Zoo president Clément Lanthier said the decision to move the endangered Asian elephants to another accredited zoo within four to five years was made in the best interest of the animals.

"It was based on a growing acceptance and understanding of the importance of the social structure in elephant herds," Clement said. "... their welfare is better served by being part of a larger social group."

But because the zoo is on an island, there isn’t enough room to build a bigger elephant enclosure to accommodate a larger herd, he added.


The Calgary Zoo will relocate its elephants to other zoos in the next four to five years, officials announced on Thursday. (CBC)

"While our elephant facility meets all current industry standards ... we know that we cannot expand the year-round space for our elephants over the coming decades such that it would accommodate a significantly larger social group," he said.

It’s anticipated the zoo’s lone bull, Spike, will be moved out first in cooperation with the Miami zoo — which still owns him —and after consultation with the Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan.

The three female elephants — Kamala, Swarna and Maharani (and her calf due next February) — will be kept together as a family unit when they are moved, the zoo said.

"The decision to relocate our elephants was terribly difficult. We have had elephants here for more than 40 years. Our team of dedicated professional elephant keepers have literally devoted their careers to care for these inspiring animals," Lanthier said.