Buffalo Beals Animal Park in Maiden received two 5,000-pound guests this week.
Cora, a 52-year-old Asian elephant, and Shannon, an African elephant in her 30s, arrived at the 40-acre Catawba County property on Monday, according to owner Terry Beal, who heads the business with his wife Kim.
“How often do you have an elephant come through Catawba County?,” he said.
The unique animals will be leaving the park later this month to head to a fair in Charleston, S.C., but not before area residents get a chance to ride them, Beal said.
For $7 apiece, rides will be available starting 3 p.m. Friday and again 12-4 p.m. Saturday.
The animal park offers group tours Monday through Thursday and non-appointment visits Friday through Sunday, Beal said.
He revealed that he met the elephants’ owners and trainers Bill and Cindy Morris nearly a decade ago at the Cleveland County Fair, and the couple’s son Billy brought two of the mammals to the Maiden property for an eight-month stay seven years ago.
Bill Morris contacted Beal earlier this fall from the Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem and asked if he and the elephants could stay at the Catawba County park for a couple of weeks before heading to their next Southern fair location.
“I told him he could come and hangout here,” Beal said.
While Cora and Shannon are equally massive in size, they have slight differences in appearance due to their distinctive species.
“Cora is a little bit wider,” Beal said, “and Shannon is a little bit taller.”
Shannon’s ears are also larger.
Beal said he and Morris feed the elephants a mixed-grain soil along with various types of grass hays such as sweet, leafy Orchard grass and Timothy hay.
Next month, the animal park plans to add another, possibly more permanent animal to its property — a giraffe.
The two-year-old animal will be traveling from Texas, and is set to arrive in the Lone Star State today, Beal said.
The giraffe will join the park’s already more than 250 domestic and exotic animals, including monkeys, water buffalo, peacocks, camels, kangaroos, deer and ponies. The property also boasts a reptile room filled with snakes and lizards.
The couple have owned their Maiden residence for close to 20 years but didn’t establish the popular animal park until 2000.
Beal, who said he has always been around animals and worked in the dairy business at one point, started the business venture after trading some of his white peacocks for buffalo from Mooresville’s Lazy 5 Ranch Owner Henry Hampton.
While Beal enjoys working with a variety of animals, he most appreciates being able to run the business with his family, including his daughter and two sons, who each help out at the park throughout the year.
Another thrilling part about owning the property, Beal said, is watching park-goers engage with the animals, witnessing some of them for the first time in their lives.
He particularly noted how a young child recently referred to a camel as a llama.
“Growing up in the city, they don’t get to see certain animals,” Beal said.
Buffalo Beals is located at 3259 Water Plant Road. For more information or to make a reservation, call (828) 428-4388 or visit buffalobeals.com.
“You never know what (animal) might show up next,” Beal said.