Zoos May Buy Region 8 Elephant Sanctuary for National Center

MARCH 8, 2007 - Posted at 11:10 a.m. CST

QUITMAN, AR - A couple who has provided a home for elephants on 330 acres in north-central Arkansas for the last 16 years have put their sanctuary up for sale, wildlife and all.

Ten zoos, including the St. Louis Zoo, are interested in turning Scott and Heidi Riddle's Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary into a national research, breeding and home for elephants.

The Riddles have 13 elephants and have been looking at ways to keep the sanctuary in Cleburne County open.

Asian and African elephants are declining dramatically in number.

The National Elephant Center board of directors says it wants to create a nonprofit center at the Riddles' sanctuary to protect and add to the elephant population.

Both sides say the deal is still in discussion, but the draft says board members hope to begin operating the center this summer while upgrading the facilities.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)