August 15, 2011 -
Tonka, the African
elephant that calls Knoxville Zoo home, is the
largest bull elephant in the United States,
according to a survey published in the Journal of
the Elephant Managers Association.
Weighing in at a svelte 13,300 pounds, Tonka
stands 10 feet 8 inches tall at his shoulders. He
came to Knoxville in 1981 when he was two
years old. The zoo's only bull elephant, he
shares the Stokely African Elephant Preserve
with two females, Jana and Edie.
Being the largest elephant in the country isn't
Tonka's only claim to fame; he also bowls, plays
the keyboard and is a talented painter. "He's
extremely smart," says Jim Naelitz, elephant
curator at Knoxville Zoo. "He also likes to be
the center of attention, and he'll splash his
keepers with water if he doesn't think they're
taking enough notice of him."
A guy Tonka's size also has a healthy appetite. He eats 300 pounds of hay, grain, produce and tree
browse a day, and his favorite treat is the occasional Krispy Kreme doughnut.
Knoxville Zoo is Knoxville's largest year-round attraction. Located off exit 392A from Interstate 40, the zoo is
open every day except Christmas Day. Knoxville Zoo is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and
Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation,
and education. Currently, the zoo is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and from 9:30
a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. Nextday
admission is free after 3 p.m. For more information, please call 865-637-5331 ext. 300 or visit www.knoxvillezoo.org.