New elephant: 'She's brought some more energy into the program'

New elephant: 'She's brought some more energy into the program'

WINSTON, Ore. -- The Wildlife Safari has had only two elephants, Alice and George, since Tiki passed away in October 2010.

Officials say that was a problem.

Katie Alayan, senior elephant trainer at the park, says they don't like to be in smaller groups. "We needed some companionship for our two elephants," she said.

Alayan says that elephants are pack animals, especially the females. "In the wild, you're going to see elephants living in what are termed 'matriarchal herds.' So, that means that you have a lead female in the herd, and then you have related females."

Alice especially was missing the companionship of another female elephant.

That's where Tava comes in.

The park had been looking for a new elephant for a while, when officials at 6 Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California offered to donate the animal.

Moving an elephant is no easy feat: it involved a massive crate, crane and a huge truck.

They had to hire a professional elephant shipper to help with the move.

>>>See Photos of Tava's Arrival

Officials say one of the biggest worries wasn't how they were going to get Tava to the park though. It was what would happen when she got there.

One of the initial concerns was how Tava would bond with the park's resident elephants, Alice and George.

Alayan says, so far, so good. "Alice and George are already doing really well with her, they're slowly forming those bonds that we really like to see," she said.

Katie says she couldn't be happier with their interactions.

They started out with a fence between them, and when they first let them in the same space, the animals were quiet and friendly.

Tava comes with a few of her own tricks, but trainers want to keep working with her to get to know her personality a bit better before she takes parts in encounters with people.

Katie hopes that she'll be able to take part in painting and car washes by the summer.

While the memory of the elephant they lost won't soon leave them, they say that Tava has already gone a long way in helping them move on. "Tiki's spot will never be able to be filled," Katie said. "She was a very special, very unique animal, and she is still deeply missed by all of us here. But bringing Tava in has brought some more energy into the program again."