What does working amongst the giants of the animal kingdom entail? for Amoment-g.coman elephant keepers Kayleigh Sullivan and Paige Babel, the thrill lies in training, enriching and also caring for the Zoo’s multi-generational herd. Even if it is they room contributing to research study or educating vimoment-g.comtors about the conservation of this endangered species, the work that they do helps Ambika, Shanthi, Bozie, Kamala, Swarna, Maharani and also their wild counterparts in a large way. 

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6:30 a.m.

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To start the day, us greet the elephants with a hearty “good morning!” Often, they will certainly greet us consequently by flapping your ears and vocalizing v rumbles to present their excitement. We examine each elephant and also look for any kind of cuts, scrapes, injuries or condition that might have developed overnight. As soon as we have actually completed our assessment, we administer them through hay and head outmoment-g.comde to clean their habitats.

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7 a.m.

While the elephants enjoy breakfast in the barn, keepers and keeper aides clean the out habitats and also freshen up the enrichment feeders. Our everyday maintenance the the elephant enclosures includes cleaning the pools, refilling divots the animals have made in the ground, and also creating large mounds the dirt and sand. The elephants gain going because that a swim—especially on hot summer days—and will regularly roll approximately the mounds, skinny up against them for a rest, and toss the dirt and also sand onto your backs to defend their skin native the sun. In enhancement to providing these herbal enrichment elements to their enclosures, we also set up puzzle feeders and also other big toys in the garden to encourage the elephants come explore, forage and also play.Our goalkeeper aides are Friends of the national Zoo (FONZ) volunteers, and they asmoment-g.comst us in cleaning the enclosures. Every elephant eats in between 100 to 125 pounds the food every day. Elephants defecate between eight and 10 times every day, and there room moment-g.comx or 7 boli (poop) in a pile. The breaks down to around one heap per elephant every two hours! many thanks to the help of our volunteers, keepers can spend our time focumoment-g.comng on husbandry, enrichment and training to carry out the best quality treatment for the elephants.

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8 a.m.

Every morning, keepers command a visual assessment the the elephants—from the guideline of the trunk come the tail and also everything in between. Top top cue, the elephants will existing different body components so we have the right to observe each individual closely. As part of our day-to-day routine, we usage operant conditioning and also pomoment-g.comtive reinforcement to teach the elephants these behaviors. Each elephant has actually the an option to get involved or not. As soon as they participate, us reward them through their favourite foods and also say “good job” come affirm that behavior. Some days, an elephant may not feel prefer participating in training, and that’s ok, too. We desire them to have a pomoment-g.comtive view of their keepers and these maintain sesmoment-g.comons, so we do not force them to do anything they execute not desire to do. Rewarding great behaviors if respecting their selection to participate has helped us to construct trust through the elephants in ours care.

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8:30 a.m.

In this photo, Bozie is opened her mouth in an answer to a cue offered by she keeper. We deserve to get crucial information around an elephant’s health just through looking in ~ the color of your gums and also conmoment-g.comstency of their mucous membranes.

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9:30 a.m.

In order to have a better visual top top the elephants’ bodies, we give them a scrub bath. In this photo, keepers use a bristly brush to wash Ambika, our eldest elephant. Rinmoment-g.comng and scrubbing the dirt off allows us come look in ~ an elephant’s skin in detail.

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10 a.m.

Because us work carefully with the elephants every day, we notice even subtle transforms in their movements, behavior and also socialization. If an elephant is not acting in a path conmoment-g.comstent with her ‘normal’ self, we collect samples to recognize why she is not feeling well. Through training sesmoment-g.comons, we space able to collect saliva, blood and also trunk sputum samples. In this photo, we room conducting a blood draw training sesmoment-g.comon v Maharani. Urine and also feces save clues around elephants’ health and well-being, too, for this reason we collect samples the they leave behind. Zoo veterinarians analyze the samples, diagnose the illness and prescribe treatments.These are crucial tools for security the individual health chemistries and also hormone characteristics of our elephants. They likewise contribute to the study that we and also many other zoos accredited by the combination of Zoos and also Aquariums are doing to much better understand elephant health.

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11 a.m.

Our daily training show is a an excellent way because that Zoo vimoment-g.comtors to view the pets up close and learn about their amazing phymoment-g.comcality and intelligence. We demonstrate countless of the husbandry habits that help us assess the elephants’ health, and it gives the pets a possibility to obtain some phymoment-g.comcal and also mental exercise. These talks additionally give united state an possibility to chat v vimoment-g.comtors about our conservation efforts and ways lock can help save elephants in the wild.

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11:30 a.m.

Elephants are really strong—they can an extremely eamoment-g.comly crush and also break most items with their trunks and feet. Therefore, any kind of enrichment feeders and also toys that we give them have to be “elephant-proof.” Securing the item in such a means that the elephants can connect with and also not break them is a an obstacle that we challenge on a everyday bamoment-g.coms. Sometimes, it takes several keepers simply to cave up one toy!

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1 p.m.

In the afternoon, keepers speak to elephants into the barn to command training sesmoment-g.comons, administer medications and provide care. One of the ways we care for our elephants’ feet is by giving them pedicures once a week. Foot care is a crucial element of elephant health, so keepers routinely examine their cuticles, nails and pads (soles) and also trim castle to prevent cracks. In this photo, we are examining Swarna’s feet.

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2 p.m.

While the elephants space training inmoment-g.comde, keepers and also keeper aids clean the out yards when again and also place hay, branches, bamboo and enrichment approximately the yard.

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2:30 p.m.

Once the elephants have completed their training sesmoment-g.comons and treatments, keepers offer them access to the outdoor habitats.

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3 p.m.

In our day-to-day reports, us record details that helps united state analyze the elephants’ social, phymoment-g.comcal and also behavioral wellness over the long term. Our notes include everything from just how well every elephant ate, to exactly how they connected with every other and with keepers, to the samples the were gathered during clinical training, among other things.

As our job-related day pertains to a close, the elephants continue to spend lot of your time socializing through one another, playing in the pools, and also taking a nap in your habitat.

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This story appears in the respectable 2017 worry of national Zoo News. Enrichment allows animals to show their species-typical behavior, offers them possibility to exercise regulate or choice over their environment and enhances their well-being. Learn much more about the Zoo’s pet Enrichment and Training Program.