The Tembo Preserve Foundation is a nonprofit organization established by lifelong elephant enthusiasts and philanthropists, Roger and Ann McNamee, and the Oakland Zoo, a nationally recognized leader in progressive African elephant care and management. The Foundation is also supported by our team of Conservation Partners, renowned for their revolutionary research and advocacy work to ensure the protection of the remaining wild African elephant population.
Roger and Ann McNamee’s shared passion for elephants has inspired them to give generously for over 30 years to support global efforts to conserve this magnificent species. Creating a cutting-edge preserve for captive elephants is a dream many years in the making for the McNamee’s. Through their Tembo Preserve Foundation they have committed to financing the construction of the Preserve and cover operational costs for the next 50 years.
As an AZA-accredited Zoo, a standard earned by fewer than 10% of approximately 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the USDA, Oakland Zoo is held to the strictest standards in animal care, conservation, and education. Oakland Zoo has become a national pioneer in elephant welfare by: helping revolutionize the way elephants in captivity are cared for, funding anti-poaching programs in Africa, fighting for legislation to ban ivory sales and, most recently, helping Oakland become one of the only cities in the U.S. to ban the bullhooks still used by circuses.
Oakland Zoo is home to four African elephants; three females and one male, Donna, Lisa, M’Dunda, and Osh. More than six acres make up their expansive exhibit, which includes a swimming pool, trees, hills, and areas for dust bathing, which is a natural behavior among elephants. The elephants are managed with protected contact, meaning zookeepers and elephants do not share the same space; bull hooks are not used. The animals are never forced to do anything they do not want to do; instead, they are rewarded with treats for participating with foot care, morning routines, and health exams.
Oakland Zoo’s expert elephant care team will manage the day-to-day operations of the Preserve and the care of the elephants.
Through Dr. Parrott’s tenacious leadership over the last 30 years, Oakland Zoo has transformed from one of the poorest wildlife parks in the country into internationally recognized as one of the best. He has overseen the implementation of a complete renovation of the Zoo including the expansion of the elephant habitat into an outdoor area consisting of three off exhibit holding yards and an expanded exhibit totaling approximately six acres. The additional space allows the elephants to choose between full sun and deep shade in each outdoor enclosure.
Dr. Parrott, an avid conservationist and naturalist, has also devoted much of his career to advocating for the humane treatment of animals in captivity. He, along with Colleen Kinzley, Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Research, implemented the first Protected Contact Training and Management program in the country for the Zoo’s four African elephants. His tireless efforts for over a decade finally led the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) to require accredited zoos to adopt “protected contact” in elephant care and management, using positive reinforcement and conditioning, and eliminating punitive restraints like bullhooks and chains. His work has changed the way elephants are managed in captivity worldwide. Most recently, Dr. Parrott and the Zoo’s elephant management staff have dedicated their time to advocating for local and statewide legislation banning the use of bullhooks in the care of circus elephants, as well as prohibit the sale of ivory in California to help stop the elephant poaching crisis.
Joel J. Parrott, DVM
Colleen Kinzley has worked with elephants in the zoo environment for over 20 years. Prior to becoming Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Research she was the General Curator and Elephant Manager. During that time she helped implement the first Protected Contact Training and Management program in the country. Colleen developed zoo-wide enrichment programs and developed zoo-wide operant conditioning training programs for animal husbandry and medical care. Under Colleen’s direction, the Oakland Zoo has participated in a wide variety of elephant research projects including: seismic communication, ongoing behavioral study of the Zoo’s elephants, evaluation of temporal gland secretions, and monitoring of testosterone in the bull during musth and non-musth periods. She also participates in field research in Namibia, studying elephant communication and social behavior. An active supporter of conservation programs, Colleen and the Oakland Zoo have raised and donated over $100,000 for the Amboseli Elephant Research Project and the Samburu Elephant Research Project in Kenya, and the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Colleen also has presented and published numerous papers on a wide range of topics from managing elephant illness to elephant reproduction.
Jeff began as an elephant keeper at Oakland Zoo in 1996. He and his wife Gina are now Co-Elephant Managers responsible for overseeing the dedicated team of keepers and volunteers that help in the day-to-day care of the Zoo's African elephant herd. Jeff coordinates training of the elephants utilizing the Zoo’s Protected Contact management system that relies on positive reinforcement. This allows the staff to provide husbandry and veterinary care to insure the elephant's health. Jeff also oversees the elephant's daily enrichment and exercise making sure that the elephants are kept active and engaged in natural behavior patterns. Under Jeff's leadership a special keeper position was developed to ensure that ample eucalyptus, acacia and other browse is scattered throughout their habitat requiring the elephants to search for their food as they would in the wild.
After graduating with a degree in Zoology and Animal Science at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Gina decided to fulfill her goal of caring for animals by pursuing a career in zoo keeping. As a volunteer intern in 2005, Gina was introduced to the Oakland Zoo Elephant Program and shortly thereafter became a full time elephant keeper. In 2010 she was promoted to a Keeper II position where her responsibilities included oversight of the Zoo’s Behavioral Observation Team, a group of trained volunteers that help gather data for behavioral management on a variety of species. The elephant team has collected hundreds of hours of data for the use of increasing welfare through observation and management improvements. Since her time as a keeper she has been able to travel to Namibia to help participate in wild elephant behavioral research, has advocated the truth about circus abuse and appropriate management practices through blogging on the Zoo’s website, and has taken a leading role in participating in elephant welfare related studies, including foot care management. Recently in her position as Co-Elephant Manager she helps oversee the psychological and physical well-being of the zoo’s four African elephants. She has played an active role in the coalitions for both AB 96, a California bill to ban ivory sales, and SB 716, a California bill to prohibit the use of the bullhook, while promoting the zoo’s mission of education and conservation. Gina is also an organizing member of March for Elephants, a San Francisco based non-profit.