The Valley Zoo said goodbye to Samantha the elephant as she left to be a mom in her new home in North Carolina.
The 19-year-old elephant will be part of the breeding program at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, which recently expanded its elephant enclosure to include seven acres in a naturalized habitat.
Staff stroked and petted Samantha before she boarded the moving truck Tuesday night. Zoo operations manager Dean Treichel said they're sad to see Samantha go, but they know it's for the best.
"It was trying for the staff, there's no two ways about it," Treichel said, standing in the empty elephant pen. "They have worked 17 years with this particular elephant. Again, you build relationships especially when you work very closely with this particular type of animal."
Samantha arrived at the Valley Zoo as an orphan in 1988, after an elephant cull in her native Zimbabwe.
Samantha was moved quietly to prevent undue stress on her. Treichel said she is in good hands with an expert who has moved more than 800 elephants around North America in the last 30 years.
Treichel said there are no plans to acquire more elephants or to move Lucy, the zoo's other elephant.