It's been six months since our male elephant, Gung moved into his own exhibit after leaving the female herd, so here's an update on what's happening with him now.
In April this year, and in keeping with natural elephant herd structures, Gung had reached an age to leave the matriarchal herd and by that stage, our pregnant older females were keen to see him go. In the wild, adolescent bulls leave the female herd and take up a more solitary lifestyle, returning to the females only to breed.
Gung's new customised bachelor facilities include mud wallows, two pools, a huge heated barn, and lots of features to play and interact with. He's also got areas of sun and shade, and he chooses whether to sleep indoors or out under the stars.
These days, we keepers spend several hours with him in a range of activities including exercising, wash-downs, play, numerous feeds, swimming and other activities.
Our assessment of him has been backed by recent behavioural studies that have shown that Gung now spends more time exploring his exhibit and the changing features that we regularly introduce, as he continues to mature and become more independent.
The females still come to visit Gung, but he's also benefited from increased interaction with the keepers.
All the elephants at Taronga Zoo are part of an Australasian conservation breeding program for their species and Gung has already performed an important role in this program by fathering the first ever Asian Elephant calf born in Australia, Luk Chai (born in July 2009). As a young male, Gung's prospects for fathering further calves is promising.
He's full of life and energy, so he definitively looks forward to our work with him and we aim to give him a positive combination of play, exercise, foraging and rest.
One thing to note - he's very partial to decorating himself with a one of his play items, which is a long rope with a tyre at each end, Every day, when he's having breakfast in his barn, we locate it and hide it somewhere in the exhibit. Sure enough, when he comes out, it's the first thing he looks for and he immediately drapes it across his back and keeps it there most of the day - we call it Gung's 'bling'.
from Elephant Keeper Bradd