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FAIRHOPE, Pa. (AP) - Three new elephants have arrived at the International Conservation Center after being rescued from the wilds of Botswana.Barbara Baker - chief executive of the Pittsburgh Zoo, which runs the Somerset County breeding and protective center - introduced Thandi, Seeni and Sukiri to western Pennsylvania media Tuesday afternoon.The three elephants arrived Friday, bringing to six the number of pachyderms on the premises.The elephants are 20-, 18- and 18-years-old and were rescued when they were young from a government- sanctioned cull, or hunt, in South Africa designed to thin the herd.Owners Uttum and Dinky Corea saved the animals and moved them to their home in Botswana."This story really is about them and the sacrifices they made," Baker said.Uttum Corea said it wasn't easy to let go of the elephants after more than 15 years. He compared the situation to one's kids growing up and leaving home."You think of what's best for your children, and what's best for the elephants," he said, joined by two of his daughters. "You can't be selfish."Corea is a resident of Gaborone, Botswana. He recounted - with all the relish of a proud papa - stories of President George W. Bush and Britain's Princess Anne visiting his elephants."I like to think of this as a gift from the people of Botswana to the people of the U.S.A.," Corea said.Daughter Iresha Corea-Sapp said the family felt "an enormous relief and peace" about their success in finding a satisfactory home at the ICC for the elephants with which she was raised.Actually, one of the elephants was under threat of being destroyed, so the family decided to transfer the three as a group to the Somerset- area facility.According to a zoo news release, "In 2010, a handler suffered an injury while working with one of the elephants, which would not have been life-threatening with appropriate medical attention.Unfortunately, the handler was far from any medical care and passed away."The exact circumstances of the incident remain cloudy.According to the wildlife laws in Botswana, animals involved in fatalities must be destroyed. The only way to save the trio was to export them from the country.The DNA of the new arrivals will be studied to see if they are related.Baker said the elephants would be kept quarantined in an adjacent field - away from resident bull Jackson and the center's other two females, Kallie and Bette, for 60 to 90 days to check for diseases.Then, they will be integrated into a larger population.While Baker hopes Jackson will find romance with the new girls in town, she said his initial reaction was not to react at all.He seemed to take the attitude that he's king, she said.Thandi, Seeni and Sukiri - who can be told apart by their tusks - are three of only 24 breeding-age female African elephants in the United States. And Jackson, who already has sired offspring, is one of just three bull elephants in the country.Animal husbandry experts had high hopes that sparks would fly between Jackson and Kallie and Bette. But, Baker said, neither of the females could become pregnant:?One had aged out and the other had kidney problems.Bringing the new elephants to Fairhope was the end product of an international effort that involved securing permits, chartering a cargo plane, raising money and constructing the temporary quarantine building.Baker said the Richard K. Mellon Foundation and the Colcom Foundation helped cover the $750,000 in costs for transporting the animals from Africa.The zoo also credited a Somerset team of Todd Menzer, Clyde Mostoller and Jerry Darr with assisting in the elephant transfer.The ICC continues to grow, with the announcement earlier this year that African painted dogs would be housed on site. The dogs haven't arrived yet.Also, Baker said Tuesday, a 20-cow/calf barn for elephants should be ready in fall 2012. It could take a decade or longer to fill it with elephants.___Online: from: The Tribune-Democrat, http://www.tribune-democrat.comAn AP Member Exchange. Please credit the member.

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