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Elephants at Zoo Knoxville getting to know each other better

If it all works out, maybe we could get a baby elephant at Zoo Knoxville!

Knoxville — Zoo Knoxville is hoping the play dates between two African elephants could lead to something more.

Tonka and Edie have lived at the zoo for years, but Tonka, the bull, has always been separated from the females in the habitat.

Now, zoo keepers have started regular play dates between the two to see how they get along. So far, it's going great.

"The very active Edie loves to engage Tonka in sparring, interactions on the sand pile and sharing treats," said Zoo Knoxville in a press release.

There is of course a bigger, more important purpose to this introduction. Zoo staffers want to know how Tonka gets along with females because he is very important to the future of the elephant population.

He has never fathered any babies, so his genetics are not represented in the North and South American elephant populations. African elephants are endangered, with only about 400,000 left living in the wild.

Zoo Knoxville works with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to make the right matches between elephants in captivity so they can breed and add to their numbers.

The zoo says because Tonka's not bred before, he's "the most genetically valuable bull in the country for breeding and a potentially important part of the future of elephant conservation."

So if it all works out, maybe we could get a baby elephant at Zoo Knoxville!

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