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Photo by Johny Wade
Pak Boon cools off in the mud wallow

This summer has been one of the hottest in recent memory with temperatures soaring in Sydney, a fact that isn’t lost on Taronga’s elephants and their keepers.

As part of the elephants’ day-to-day care, keepers look for fun and effective ways of keeping them cool. On hot days the elephants receive ice blocks full of treats, cold water showers and they also have access to two large pools if they want to go for a swim.

However, sometimes the most simple and natural solution works best.

Wild Elephants like to cool off by covering themselves in mud, so the elephant team decided to revamp the existing wallows in both the male and female elephant exhibits to encourage some natural wallowing behaviour.

Since then, visitors to Taronga Zoo have had the pleasure of watching the elephants playing and splashing around in their wallows in an attempt to regulate their body temperature and gain some relief from the heat.

Wallowing also helps coat their skin in thick mud which acts as a natural sun screen and helps to reduce the irritation caused by biting insects.

Gung, Taronga’s resident bull, has been observed using his wallow on a daily basis and regularly greets his keepers covered in mud, while his daughter Tukta is also keen on getting dirty and often encourages her mother Pak Boon and her ‘Aunty’ Tang Mo to join in the fun.

Wallowing with fellow herd members helps strengthen existing social bonds and is a fun and energetic activity that the elephants can participate in for extended periods of time.

Getting respite from the heat is especially appreciated by the very pregnant Pak Boon, who is in the final stages of her 22 month pregnancy. Wallows can be a great introduction to shallow water for a young calf, particularly when you have an enthusiastic older sibling who is keen to jump in first.

- Elephant Keeper, Johny Wade

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