Chilly mornings are not too bad at all in the heated elephant barn at Taronga Western Plains Zoo where the elephants enjoy a nice warm 30 degree shower every morning.
Elephants enjoy water. It keeps their skin supple. “Elephants will often roll in the mud for fun and also for protection against the weather,” said keeper Glen Sullivan “So it’s important to give the elephants a clean off every morning.”
Glen adds that the bathing routine is used not only to warm the elephants and get them ready for their adventures on exhibit but also to help build a relationship with the elephant. “We use these baths as a way to develop our relationship with the elephants, they listen to us and they are rewarded, they get used to the routine and they are all very well behaved,” said Glen.
Watching Gigi the 56 year old Asian elephant having her bath this morning it was clear she was enjoying it, she listens to the requests of her keepers which includes “turn around Gigi,” “lean in.” and “foot up please Gigi,” she is rewarded not only with the warm water that washes over her huge body but with some favourite snacks as well.
Glen says the baths are also a good way to check on the elephants. “It allows us to see what is going on with the animal too, if they have any cuts or grazes and if their feet need any extra special attention; it’s like we give them a pedicure everyday!” jokes Glen.