The elephants have landed — and they got a Fort Worth police escort to their new home Friday morning.
A 747 carrying 17 elephants from Africa arrived at 12:17 a.m. at Alliance Airport in far north Fort Worth.
Bound for three U.S. zoos, including the Dallas Zoo, the elephants and their transfer out of Swaziland were controverdial and legally challenged by an animal-rights group.
A National Cargo Boeing 747-400 transported the elephants from Dakar, Senegal. The flight took 10 hours and five minutes, according to FlightAware.com.
Dallas Zoo spokeswoman Laurie Holloway said the elephants did well on the trip and needed only the initial sedation given at the airport in Senegal.
“When we saw them early this morning on the plane, we fed them all and watered them all again,” Holloway said. “They were doing great, with some of them reaching out with their trunks while some were sleeping.”
Five of the 17 elephants will be permanently housed at the Dallas Zoo. Those five — one male and four females including a mother and daughter — were transported in big crates lashed onto trailers Friday morning from Alliance Airport to the zoo, escorted by Fort Worth police and a SWAT team through the Metroplex.
Holloway said the elephants will be quarantined for the 30 days per federal regulations. The zoo staff will then slowly introduce the five elephants to the four older female elephants in residence at the zoo. (The zoo staff calls them the “Golden Girls,” as they are all retired circus and entertainment elephants.)
There is no timetable for when the new elephants will be introduced to the public, she added.
The other elephants went to the the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan., and the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Neb.
Drought in Swaziland has threatened the health of the elephants.
Initially, 18 elephants were slated to be transferred to the U.S., but one died in December, officials have said.
The transfer almost didn’t happen after it was challenged in court by Friends of Animals. But a U.S. district judge cleared the way this week for the import, according to the Wichita Eagle.