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whats needed in an elephant exhibit?

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by jay, 22 May 2005.

  1. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    Many of the members of this forum rail about the inadequacy of the new elephant exhibits at Taronga and Melbourne. This got me wondering what we thought would be need in the ideal enclosure.

    The following is my idea. Elephants are notorius for their destructive abilities which means it is impossible to have vegetation in their exhibits. This leads to a dust bowl effect, certainly not the type of place asian elephants live in.

    If a zoo has the space then they could have, say 12 acres, fenced off and divided into 1 acre areas. Each area is densly planted with all sorts of quick growing plants that elephants would love, palms, bananas, paw paw, bamboo, yams etc. When ready the first area is opened up to the elephants to browse in. I'm not sure how quickly a group of 6 or more elephants would take to turn that area into a moonscape, 1 week, 1 day? Whatever.
    This would enable the animals to have direct contact with all sorts of browse fodder, stimualting activities in the form of pushing, pulling, eating all day - just as they would do in the wild and it would look good to.
    There would have to be plenty of signs, volunteers explaining what was happening.
    After the area has been denuded it would be closed off, replanted (some plants like bamboo might regenerate on their own, others would grow from seeds in the manure and it would be well fertilised) and some time later the next area opened up. After three years the first area could be reopened, ready for another bashing. The size, time limits could be varied.

    What else would you think an elephant eclosure would need?
    Jason
     
  2. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    elephant habitat...

    jason, i think you've got the right idea. should the paddocks be large enough, you would expect that at least the grass would grow back. but in reality asian elephants are enormous giant grass-eating machines. like we keep domestic cattle, sheep etc in paddocks and rotate them to rest pastures, so to is the most logical and humane way to keep elephants. large trees can be hot-wired for protection as shade is important. however, in addition dead trees should always be provided for scratching apon. melbourne mount them on old buried old car tires so that they sway when the elephants rub against them. rocks, which are frequently used everywhere in elephant exhibits (you should see the bull exhibit at melbourne - rock overkill ) are just a waste of space in my opinion. a couple are okay, but in reality they stop the elephants from walking in that space. elephant skin needs daily care and i think any decent elephant exhibit should have a very large water source - big enough to include the entire herd at once (bathing is an important social activity) and gradually receding in depth until it is deep enough for a fully grown animals to swim for at least 10 or 15 meters. this would provide excellent exercise.
    dust baths and mud wallows are equally important for the skin. ideally, a very large dam can acts as both a swimming pool and a mud wallow at the edges. variations in the topography are always good - i have seen baby elephants in india have a great time pushing eachother into ditches, rolling down the hill, like two playfighting dogs. it also provides a bit of excercise, stimulus, and can obstruct the view of certain areas, thus meaning individual elephants can get out of eachothers faces from time-to-time.

    ideally, for breeding purposes there should be enough paddocks to accommodate a female/juvenile herd and a batchelor herd OR at least two solitary males. the stimulus of having the bulls/females switching exhibits constantly would no doubt be an encouragement for breeding and the competion factor would be important for males.

    i firmly believe that should the paddocks be big enough (think werribee's main savannah) teh grass will cope with the grazing and the elephants will no doubt entertain themselves much of the time. however, enrichment objects, feeding devices, scratch posts and daily keeper-guided walks or activities will only further improve the animals well-being. i have often thought how great it would be to have an open range zoo with a clean river running through it (pity the werribee river is polluted, though it still has the odd platypus). that way the elephants could be walked to the river every day, through the zoo, where asian style "ghats" could be built for seating the public on the river's bank. elephant washdown here it would be the main highlight of viewing the elephants, just like in asia, and the keepers can take advantage of the up-close experience and talk elephant conservation initiatives.

    perfect!

    :)
     
  3. Nigel

    Nigel Well-Known Member

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    elephant enclosures

    My pick would be old tractor tyres , partly because they are bigger and stronger than car tyres , but also because they have tread patterned into them . The Auckland Zoo also has ropes and chains as these are used to reinforce the elephants conception that they are somehow required for vet inspections as/when required . They are not used for any negative reasons
    and I suspect that the elephants are given a nice snack after being tied up for a short period (?)
    For cooler climates , I suggest having warm air heating being blown through the night stables during colder nights .....
    I dont know if anyone makes them , but how about large rubber balls , about 4 feet wide diameter , or anything else that can roll around .....
    How about a waterfall flowing into the bathing waterhole , and powerful fountains that operate at random .... ?
    But if there is any heavy manual work required in redeveloping another part of the zoo , who do you call ? the elephants ( not ghostbusters ) Auckland Zoo gets the elephants to help out as often as possible , and from what I've seen of them , they enjoy the new game of pulling out large tree stumps or lifting logs , or even building a mud bath for the rhinos ......
    I suspect that the elephants relish those projects more than having unlimited access to fake rock .....
    and no doubt at Australia Zoo they can always squirt water at anyone wearing khaki shorts .....
     
  4. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    the melbourne zoo elephant barn is really world class. if features a super high roof full of skylights for natural light, climate controlled temperature and heated rubber floors, which is very important as elephants suffer from potenially fatal foot conditions when made to stand on concrete for extended periods. the elephant "stalls" are placed in the middle of the barn so the keepers can walk around them and access the animals from almost any angle. one whole side if the barn is shug windows that can be pulled open (provided the screen is lifted) so that the public can get an up-close look at the elephants being washed or fed in the barn and even have a chat with a keeper. similar to what you describe (rubber ball), melbourne have large tin balls that have holes drilled into them and are then filled with food treats like nuts. the ball is usually chained to a tree (hanging or sitting on the ground) so that the elephants must shake/roll it to get the reward.
     
  5. Paul Scott

    Paul Scott Member

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    Chester's elephants.

    Hi guys,

    Just to add my two cents.
    Chester Zoo has done a fantastic job over the last 5 years in remodelling their elephant enclosure. Originally it was about 2 acres including the house. It has now been expanded to about 7 acres excluding the house.
    The house itself is about 30 feet in height, 40 feet wide and about 200 feet in length.
    Originally the bulls were housed in a small section of the main house, but now are housed in an extra enclosure within the house. This part looks very "jungle" in effect - there are concrete trees with bark etc. but it only has a small space for the public to look in. Apparently this is because certain of the bulls they have kept have been murderous in intention to the public, and it doesn't stress them out.
    Outside there are trees that are hotwired, so solving the problem of ripping them up. Also there are hotwires around the outside with native grasses and trees planted, as much for the benefit of the public as the animals. There are viewing hides disguised as native huts around the perimeter.
    The bulls have a much smaller paddock again due to their aggressive nature. Within the main paddock there is a 35 foot wide pool with a 18 foot arched waterfall. There is a second waterfall against the back wall which feeds into a natural mud wallow.
    All in all about as good as you can get in my opinion.
     
  6. Nigel

    Nigel Well-Known Member

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    hidden viewing

    I agree with any way that would make one way viewing for any animal that easily gets stressed ( the gorilla exhibit at Melbourne Zoo comes to mind ) although this would not be of use at Auckland Zoos elephant enclosure , as the elephants are free to go to a hidden part of the enclosure whenever they want , but they never appear to be stressed out by humans at the zoo .

    Whether hidden in vegetation , or one way glass , or small peepholes from " African houses " , even sound shields if really neccessarry ..... if any animal stresses out at the sight of a human , I think peep hole viewing is the way to go .
    Another idea for the elephant enclosure -- how about a large heavy duty rubber ball on top of the surface in the swimming pool , but the ball is on the end of a chain that is securely anchored to the bottom of the waterhole ?

    That is what they have for the hippos at Auckland Zoo , as part of their stimulation ( they use an old beer keg ) The hippos cant figure out why this thing is always on the surface of their waterhole , despite attempts to sink it .....
     
  7. Paul Scott

    Paul Scott Member

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    Reply to Nigel

    I forgot to mention that they are in the process of tripling the size of the exhibit. This will make it slightly bigger than 15 acres. They also have a "boomer" ball that is used in the pool and paddock, which is too big too slip under the hotwires.
    About the hidden viewing, it is not because the animals are stressed (far from it), it is more that the bull they had until last month took exception to certain people and rushed the bars! None of the others ever did it.
     
  8. MARK

    MARK Well-Known Member

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    Breeding Bull

    I saw on Chester zoo's web page that there breeding bull Chang ( I think his name is ) is moving to a zoo in France to make way for a younger malewho is at the zoo who will be bred to the cows in Chester, The zoo in France has four cows waiting for Chang.