An elephant-sized GoPro headpiece has given Taronga keepers a chance to view the world through the eyes of the Zoo’s largest animals on World Elephant Day.
Keepers created a custom-fitted camera mount for Taronga’s male Asian Elephant, Gung, allowing them to capture their daily exercise and play sessions from an elephant’s larger-than-life perspective.
“It’s been fascinating for us to watch the footage and observe Gung’s thought processes. We’re always watching our elephants to see how they move and interact with one another, but for the first time we’ve been able to see how Gung is viewing us and interpreting the way we move and interact with him,” said Keeper, Steve Westnedge.
Steve came up with the idea for the GoPro headpiece after seeing Gung play with his enrichment toys.
“Gung enjoys throwing toys over his shoulders and wearing them on his head, so we thought we’d utilise this to see what things look like from an elephant’s point-of-view,” he said.
“We showed the headpiece to Gung to see if he was interested in trying it on and he loved the idea! We were surprised at how eager he was to wear it and he hasn’t once tried to touch or remove the camera,” said Steve.
The exercise and play sessions, which are designed to encourage the elephants’ natural skills, are also a favourite with Gung.
“It’s completely his choice to participate in the play sessions, but he loves the interaction. Elephants are intelligent animals and they enjoy learning new things just like us,” said Steve.
Steve said he hoped the footage would also inspire people to see the world through elephants’ eyes and take action to protect elephants in the wild on World Elephant Day.
An estimated 100 elephants are killed in Africa each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts.
Taronga is providing funds and support to several elephant conservation projects around the world, including an anti-poaching campaign with South Luangwa Conservation Society to stop illegal snaring and shooting in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley.