Environmental Considerations

Protecting the Environment and the Elephants


The Tembo Preserve will be required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to provide elephants with fresh, clean water at all times. African elephants drink about 50 gallons per day. At peak capacity, 40 elephants will require an aggregate of approximately 3 to 6-acre feet of water per year. The water supply will come from a network of groundwater wells with a flow rate likely no more than 3.5 to 10 gallons per minute in size.  Groundwater wells may also be used as a backup supply to maintain certain stockpond water levels.  At total project build out, groundwater pumping will not exceed the groundwater aquifer safe yield and any groundwater pumping activities will not affect wells on neighboring properties.


Elephants may occasionally utilize seasonal drainages, but will have minimal, if any, impact on the associated shoreline, vegetation or habitat for the following reasons:

  • 100% of the elephants’ water and food needs will be met at the barn and shelter locations, not in existing drainages.
  • Bathing will most often occur in combination with drinking at the well-filled water troughs at the barn and shelters.
  • Mudding behavior will take place at mud wallows located near the water trough and specifically created to have a thick muddy consistency.

Elephant Management and Provisioning

It is extremely important that Tembo elephants are provided with a complete diet meeting all of their nutritional needs. A typical daily diet per elephant will consist of approximately 100 lbs. of grass hay, 100 lbs. of browse (tree branches or other high fiber materials such as grape vines, reedy grasses, and edible weeds), 10 lbs. of a commercially produced elephant vitamin and mineral supplement, approximately 30 lbs. of chopped produce (used for training and management), mineral and iodized salt supplements, and other nutritional supplements as prescribed by attending veterinarians.

Elephant Impact on Oak Tree Canopy

Minimal impact to the oak tree canopy of the Tembo Preserve elephant habitat is expected due to the management of the elephants, protection of vulnerable trees, and minimal elephant activity on slopes. Oakland Zoo currently has an extensive browse program in which hundreds of pounds of eucalyptus, acacia and other vegetation are collected on-site or farmed off site and provided to the resident elephants every day.  Through our years of experience we have learned that the provision of ample browse items makes existing trees less appealing.

The design of Tembo Preserve will also allow for the management of the elephants in a manner that minimizes the impact on the oak tree canopy and supports native habitat. In each of the phases of Tembo Preserve there will be multiple fenced habitats for the elephants. Portions of the habitat may be off limits to the elephants for periods of time to promote regrowth of trees that may have been browsed by the elephants. Habitat rotation will be designed to maintain the health of the habitat vegetation including oak trees.

Threats to Livestock

Elephants will not be a source of exotic disease nor will they pose any threat to livestock.  Management of the elephants includes adherence to rigorous and regular veterinary testing upon arrival and throughout their lives at Tembo Preserve.  In the wild, elephants cohabitate with a wide variety of native and domestic species, and in larger captive settings in the US, they live with native North American species with no detrimental effects.


Tembo Preserve will maintain two types of fences, one for the elephants (elephant fence) and the other for humans (security fence); these will be installed as each phase is developed.

  • The elephant fence will be approximately 8 to 10-feet high and engineered to sufficiently and safely contain adult male elephants.
  • The security fence will be an 8-foot high standard chain link or other mesh fence with a turnback with 3 strands of barbed wire. The security fence will be designed to allow wildlife passage and keep separation from ongoing cattle operation.


Tembo Preserve will strive to not only protect but enhance the natural aesthetics and beauty of the area.

  • The Management center and the three barns will be placed such that they will not be easily seen from any neighboring property.
  • There are no established residential neighborhoods within the project area or vicinity.
  • Buildings and structures are being placed out of the site line of the few neighboring houses on the edge of the property.
  • The project is not expected to create a significant new source of substantial light or glare.

Public Safety

The safety of the surrounding community, as well as the elephants, is of central importance to the design of the Preserve. Design is being overseen by the Oakland Zoo, which has over 75 years’ experience housing and containing elephants. All fences, gates and other barriers are to be engineered and tested to withstand the maximum weight and strength of an elephant.

Due to the expansiveness of the property, it is likely each elephant will wear a GPS tracking device so caretakers can more easily determine the location of each elephant at all times.  Video surveillance throughout the property will allow for quick assessments.  As required by AZA regulations, we will have emergency response procedures in effect that will be reviewed and drilled on a regular basis.  Since the elephant care staff will work with the animals each day, were an elephant to go beyond the fenced area, in most cases the keeper staff would be able to lead it back into a contained area with ease. In the worst case scenario, these procedures will include having on-site staff at all times that are trained to use emergency immobilization equipment and animal dispatch equipment.

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