Auckland Zoo has confirmed the "difficult decision" to rehome two elephants - Anjalee and Burma - at different Australian zoos.
In a statement on the zoos website today, Auckland Zoo director Kevin Buley said they were putting the welfare of the animals first.
"These moves are all about meeting the needs and ensuring the best long-term outcomes for Anjalee and Burma – two very different elephants at different life stages, with different needs. This includes giving Anjalee, whose biological clock is ticking, every opportunity to breed," he said.
"We’ve been working hard with our Australian colleagues and the Asian elephant breeding programme to ensure the needs of both animals are met now and in the future.
"It’s because those needs are very different for each elephant that our own elephant specialists and vets have chosen separate homes for Anjalee and Burma."
Anjalee - who was born at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka, was separated from her mother but grew confidence in Auckland - will be integrated into a family herd of two cows and one calf, and three bulls at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
The decision to rehome her there was to give her the best opportunity to breed, which is important to her long-term reproductive health and wellbeing.
Meanwhile Burma, who at 38 can no longer breed, will join the herd of four females at Australia Zoo in Queensland where she will have the opportunity to play her natural role of "aunty" to the herd’s younger females.
"We are still devastated by the reality that we will no longer have elephants in New Zealand, and we know many in our community are feeling the same," Buley said.
"Burma and Anjalee are extraordinary animals that have helped inspire millions of people to care about and act for wildlife and the environment. However, as always, we must put the needs of the animals first, and we are both relieved and excited to have secured such wonderful new homes for both elephants that will ensure they will have the very best long-term futures."
"Both Burma and Anjalee are amazing animals. They have a friendship and enjoy each other’s company, but they don’t share a maternal bond like a mother and daughter would, and at times like their own space as well," Auckland Zoo’s team leader of elephants Andrew Coers added.
Today's announcement on where the elephants will be moved to comes after a decision was made in November to rehome the elephants when, according to the zoo, "it became clear that circumstances beyond the zoo’s control meant that its ambition to build a sustainable family herd in Auckland could no longer be realised".
Auckland Zoo vets and staff will travel with them to their new respective homes later this year.
The elephant keepers, all of whom have years of experience and close relationships with both elephants, will share staying on at Taronga Western Plains and Australia Zoo respectively, providing Anjalee and Burma with that reassuringly familiar presence as they work with their Australian colleagues to fully settle the two elephants in.