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May 28, 2014 8:30 AM, EDT
Three Elephants Transported by Truck from Calgary Zoo to D.C.
Annalisa Meyer, Smithsonian's National Zoo

Pandas are frequent fliers  on FedEx Corp. and UPS Inc., but for moving elephants 2,480 miles across North America, the zoos in Washington, D.C., and Calgary, Alberta, chose heavy-duty tractors pulling drop-deck trailers to transport three adult female Asian elephants.

The Calgary Zoo decided to discontinue its elephant exhibit, while the National Zoo has been trying to expand its elephant herd. So on May 20, the trio of elephants was loaded onto two trucks and began the 60-hour journey that was completed May 23.

The animals, which weigh on average 7,500 pounds each, were loaded separately into individual, custom-built 10,000-pound travel crates. Two traveled on one truck and one on the other. Recreational vehicles for the human support staff also traveled in the caravan, the National Zoo said.

During their trip, the elephants ate grain, melons, grapes and popcorn. Each truck was also outfitted with a refillable 65-gallon water tank, the zoo said.

The border crossing was between Manitoba and North Dakota, where Canadian Highway 10 becomes U.S. 281.

The National Zoo has a live Web cam of the elephants' new home (works best via Internet Explorer).