my friend Sally, a Zoo member, and I as her guest, went to see the new elephant exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo. Originally, I was going to rent a wheelchair for Sally, but she decided to buy a fancy walker. It arrived just in time. I was SO glad she did, because that freed me up to take photos.
Everything about this day made me smile, so I am also sharing this very long post with Annie at A Stitch in Time who hosts Friday Smiles. This is week 169.
Although it's a first look for those of us fortunate enough to see the new elephant enclosure this week, it took nearly 4 years of negotiations, permit applications, and court injunctions to get the elephants here. I read that the transfer from Dakar, Senegal to America, which, by itself, was a logistic puzzle that passed through many governments and agencies, took months to negotiate. That was just the legal side.
On the research side, studies were conducted to see what works for elephants and what doesn't. One study I read showed elephants have a tendency to have foot and joint problems if confined to concrete enclosures in captivity. In fact, it's apparently the number one reason elephants die in captivity. Another showed elephants tend to get lazy in captivity, so their feeding habits need to be timed in different locations.
I also learned that elephants are similar to humans socially, including how they communicate, care for their young, and show emotions. It's been shown that these beauties are also self-aware, a cognitive function often foolishly attributed to mainly humans. I'm not sure zoo patrons will see these attributes, but I'm sure their zoo keepers will.
I further learned behavioral abnormalities are common in elephants in captivity. This includes repetitive swaying and rocking, as well as infanticide. I sincerely hope our zoo is aware of these problems and will take measures to keep these beauties safe and well loved.
On the biological side, genetic tests were conducted once the elephants arrived, at which time it was learned the oldest female was the mother to the only male. Additionally, biological samples such as blood and feces are routinely checked to monitor for tuberculosis, infertility, and the overall health of the animals.
After walking, taking many photos, and seeing animals of all kinds, we were eventually shown the way to the exhibit. I immediately knew we were close, because this looked very similar to the photos I took on the tram when we were here a few weeks ago on my birthday.
At this entrance, which was blocked off because they wanted us following a certain path, a lady was showing an elephant tusk and talking about it. For some reason, I thought it was demeaning, and didn't take any photos. At another entrance further along, also blocked off, another zoo volunteer was showing a piece of elephant hide.
By the time we got here, we had been walking and taking photos for over an hour. I was surprised how alert Sally was. Usually by this time, she would have been limping, sitting every two minutes, and wanting to go home before the main event.
However, that new walker seemed to do the trick and she was ready and excited to see the elephants.
It was right about here that some woman asked to see my ticket. I was taken back and told her I didn't get a ticket. Sally laughed and said she had the ticket for both of us.
I made sure to photograph both the front
and back while Sally held the ticket she had to turn in.
I had seen this colorful piece next to the elephant exhibit the last time we were at the zoo, but I thought it was part of the gorilla exhibit, not a playground for children.
We had to keep on an exact path and our first view of the Elephants of the Zambezi River was this area that is cordoned off for boat rides. I'm sure the little "island" is for the elephants, though.
We stopped at a resting spot where we could (someday) see the elephants in the largest pool in the country.
This day, though, there was no way to climb the platform and look through the telescope that is curiously not showing in my photo.
In fact, much of the area was unavailable to us.
At least Sally was still in high spirits. Without that walker, she would never have made it this far.
Here is more of the pool, which the elephants will be able to play and romp in soon.
I keep flipping back and forth between whether these animals should be caged like this, or allowed to roam free in protected wildlife preserves. However, in the end, 17 African elephants are alive today because three American zoos cared enough about conservation to step in when these animals were to be culled for lack of food. And my definition of culled means these animals would have been put to death if the Dallas, Omaha, and Wichita zoos hadn't stepped in to save them.
One thing is for sure. They will soon be put on display for the entire area to observe them.
If you scroll back up to the article in the newspaper, you will see this is the area where the two new elephants were romping the day the photos were taken.
And there was my first look at the beautiful elephants, including Stephanie, our longtime resident elephant, who is in the foreground of this photo.
Right now, the new elephants (shown above) are being kept separate from Stephanie, although they are allowed to touch each other through the fences. Sally read that Stephanie has begun to bond with one of the new elephants and they seem to communicate with each other through the fences.
It appears that two of the young females have bonded.
Although I got a few wonderful photos of the elephants, even though they were very far away,
several of my photos ended up like this, where the fence became the focal image and I didn't get the elephants in view. By leaving this photo smaller, you can actually tell there are two elephants in the background. Had I enlarged it, the elephants become far more abstract.
Sally said she counted five of the six new elephants, but I was so busy just snapping photos, and trying to catch up since she left me behind, I didn't have a chance to count them.
This is the area Stephanie can roam in. She is the lone elephant in the photo above. For the time being, the six Zambezi elephants have about 2/3 of the area, and Stephanie has the rest. One nice thing is how these beauties can be moved from one area to another, and they should all be playing together more than likely by opening day (May 27).
Even though Stephanie is marginally closer in the photo above, it is obvious how much larger she is than the others.
I was busy snapping away when a young boy knocked my camera nearly out of my hand. I had planned to delete this photo, but thought Valerie might appreciate the bird, even though I have no idea what it is.
Inside their new home, the only concrete is on the outside of the fenced area.
This is when I begin to wonder if leaving them in cages during our cold winters for months at a time, is going to be healthy. That certainly doesn't look like a place I would have (or want) to stay for three to four months out of 12.
I promise to get off my soapbox now, because I KNOW they are better off, but how much so will remain to be seen.
Back outside, I walked through what I thought might be one of the crates used to bring the elephants to the US.
However, because my monitor no longer shows color correctly, I can't read this (it's nothing but white on my monitor), so I'm not sure what is on the sign. I do know Sally was so far ahead of me at this point, I didn't have time to stop and read it, but almost had to run to catch up to her.
A few more photos showing areas where people can stop and observe the elephants,
and a few more photos
and our visit with the elephants was over. I'm actually looking forward to seeing the elephants once the hoopla and large crowds have settled down. I hope you enjoyed this first look with me to our latest zoo members.
Thanks beyond belief for visiting today. I am SO glad you took time to join me. The rest of Wednesday's zoo photos (~100) that do not include the elephants, will be ready as soon as I get them marked and sorted from the ones I showed today. And don't forget to visit or join Annie where everyone will put a smile on your face to start the weekend out happy!