Photo by: Adi Philipsborn
By Melanie Lidman,

Israel is sending a ship to Turkey today with a large and noisy cargo on board. This shipment is part of a decades-long struggle, but one against nature: it aims to calm ties between the two countries while simultaneously saving Asian pachyderms from extinction.

The cargo consists of three elephants, zebras, a hippo, and a handful of lemurs, courtesy of the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem – commonly known as the Biblical Zoo – and the Ramat Gan Safari.

The destination: the Gaziantep Zoo in southeastern Anatolia, which is Turkey’s largest zoo.

Gaby the elephant spent his last day in Jerusalem on Sunday, and was sent to Haifa on Sunday night, where he boards a ship bound for Turkey with the other animals. It will take about a day for the animals to dock in Turkey, where they will travel overland to Gaziantep, not far from the Syrian border.

Gaby was born at the Biblical Zoo in 2005, a bouncing 100 lb. boy. He was the first elephant to be born in Israel using artificial insemination, which was a huge success for the zoo.

Shmulik Yedvad, the zoo’s head curator, who raised Gaby from the day he was born, said it was hard to part from the animal he had worked so hard to raise.

“He’s becoming more mature and we needed to find a different place for him,” he said.

Male adult elephants are difficult to keep in captivity because they are very aggressive.

“It’s hard, but we know he’s going to a place where they will take care of him and where he’s wanted,” Yedvad said.

Gaby’s trainers at the Biblical Zoo hope that he will be able to start his own family in Turkey, increasing the number of Asian elephants surviving in captivity. The three elephants from Jerusalem and Ramat Gan will be the first elephants at the Turkish zoo.

“There’s no connection to politics.

At the end of the day, everyone wants them to be in a good place,” Yedvad said. “It’s very easy to take this in the direction of a new flotilla to Turkey, but we’re not working government to government, we’re working zoo to zoo. Happily, everyone is working together for the good of the animals, and all the politics are just not relevant.”

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