Louie, a beloved 14-year-old elephant who was born at The Toledo Zoo & Aquarium, received extra special care from Dunbar’s rigging services when he was transferred to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. The move was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums cooperatively managed Species Survival Plan.

Dunbar’s crews unloaded the 17,000-pound transfer container when it arrived in Toledo from Omaha. They removed two “levels of containment” from the rear of the unit: heavy steel doors and five structural steel tubes anchored to the frame of the unit which served as a gate to keep Louie inside the container should the doors open unexpectedly. Dunbar’s 80,000-pound forklift was used instead of a crane due to restricted clearance.

The crew positioned the unit adjacent to the elephant enclosure gate and secured it in place. They built barriers to bridge the gap between the top of the container and the elephant enclosure, making sure all openings were closed so small animals (like birds and chipmunks) could not enter the unit. After ensuring all details were covered with Toledo Zoo personnel, they left for two weeks while Louie learned to comfortably enter and exit the containment unit.


A late afternoon thunderstorm helped out on the day of the move by lowering the unusually high outdoor temperature below 80-degrees F, making it safe for Louie, who stands nearly nine feet tall and weighs approximately 6,000 pounds, to move inside the containment unit.

“We were exceptionally careful as we put the steel tubes back in place while Louie enjoyed some of the treats from his handlers,” explained Tony Crippen, Dunbar’s Ironworker General Foreman and crew leader for this project. “We couldn’t make any noise or startle Louie since that might make him rear up and hurt himself, so we carefully slid the rods mid-way across the opening and met each one with a lever from the other side to pull it through.

Once all five tubes were in place we quietly reattached the heavy steel rear doors.” Securing the containment unit to the mast of the forklift ensured Louie’s safety during the lift onto the lowboy trailer. Straps then secured the unit to the trailer for the 689-mile ride.


“Dunbar is a really good partner with The Toledo Zoo,” explained Rick Payeff, Director of Facilities at The Toledo Zoo.

“We appreciate how the company and their people care about the Zoo and that’s a big part of the reason we think of Dunbar when things like this come up. This wasn’t just a rigging job where you were lifting 6,000 pounds. Dunbar understood this was Louie and took care of him. Louie was moving around in there. That made it tougher for you to be safe while moving him.”