6 elephants arriving at Henry Doorly Zoo

Posted at 7:35 PM, Mar 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-11 20:35:40-05

A plane carrying six elephants touched down in Omaha just before 4 p.m. this afternoon. Crews at Eppley Airfield then began the task of unloading the crates of the plane and then putting them on flatbed trucks.

The animals were loaded onto trucks and began making their way to the zoo around 6:15 p.m. At 7 p.m. they began unloading the first elephant at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Omaha police provided an escort for the animals. 

One male and five female make up the herd at Omaha's zoo. They will be part of the African Grasslands expansion. 

The last time the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium had elephants was in 2011. 

The six elephants were part of a group of 17 elephants transported from Africa. They went to zoos in Wichita, Dallas and Omaha. Originally 18 elephants were slated to make the trip in December but one died from a medical condition. The zoos say the drought in Swaziland created bad living conditions for the animals, and they will be better cared for in the United States. An animal rights group filed a lawsuit to try to stop the elephants from coming the U.S. They maintain that the animals are being put under unnecessary stress. 

Some animal rights groups say that since the animals have been sedated for such a long journey regulators need to do their part. A coalition of animal protection organizations, including Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), PETA, Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and captive wildlife attorney Deborah Robinson, is demanding an inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) of all 17 elephants upon arrival.

The elephants will not immediately ready for the public to view. The zoo says it could take weeks before visitors see them.