News about Elephants

From Whipsnade Zoo:

On 4 December, London Zoo’s elephants were successfully moved to Whipsnade Wild Animal Park following the completion of the Park’s additional new facilities.

As part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), Mya, Layang Layang and Dilberta are now being integrated with the Whipsnade herd to join the conservation effort to save this endangered species. The three elephants have been settling into their new home and getting to know their companions: Whipsnade’s three female elephants Anna, Lucha and Kaylee, and Emmett, the bull elephant.

Moving elephants is a complex business and requires a lot of planning. It all went extremely smoothly and that was down to the expert team involved in the move. Encouraging signs are now being seen as the two elephant groups are integrated. Bonds are being formed between the females, in particular Layang Layang and Anna are becoming great friends.On arrival, the three London Zoo elephants were kept separately from the Whipsnade herd but as the new elephants were so calm, introductions to the resident females began soon after. To ensure that introductions went well, staff had to take into account all the elephants’ different personalities and their status within the two herds. Initially, they had visual contact, and then there were neighbourly greetings over the fence, involving a lot of trunk touching and snorting. Today they are mixed in different combinations as the settling-in process continues.

Whipsnade’s extended elephant facility, which is over seven acres, has five linked outside areas including a huge grass paddock as well as two separate houses. Visitors can see the elephants taking advantage of the many additional facilities designed specially for them. There are two pools, mud wallows and dust baths, as well as rubbing posts, shades for summer and high-level feeders.

As Emmett, the bull elephant, is rapidly maturing the new facilities have been designed to withstand his incredible strength, especially when he is in musth. Emmett has already proven himself as a breeding male, with two of Whipsnade’s original herd due to give birth this year. The new additional facilities have been designed particularly with him in mind as they will have to withstand the force of a 4 tonne elephant moving at 30 miles per hour.

The new Whipsnade herd, which is the largest group of breeding females in the UK, will play an important role in the European Endangered Species Programme as Asian elephants become even more threatened in the wild. With only 20,000 to 40,000 wild Asian elephants left, ZSL’s herd at Whipsnade will help to ensure that this species is not lost forever and will inspire our visitors to join our commitment to the conservation of this fantastic animal.

In memory of Jim Robson, Senior Keeper who was tragically killed at London Zoo in October 2001, some evergreen oaks will be planted at Whipsnade. Jim died working with the elephants he loved and it was felt to be appropriate to plant trees that will provide a supply of ‘browse’ on which future generations of Whipsnade elephants can feed.

It’s nice to know there was a lot of trunk touching and snorting. Good elephants! (Bad elephants, though, for trampling poor Jim Robson to death).

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