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Photo by Tim Bennett
Pak Boon cools off in the waterfall

Warmer weather means more outdoor fun for the elephant herd at Taronga Zoo. Being very social animals, elephants interact with each other in many different ways ranging from eating together to swimming and playing in their pools.

On a recent hot day the elephant keepers saw the three female elephants in their lower yard and decided to encourage them into the pool for a fun play session.

Tukta is the first one in the water whenever the opportunity presents itself and usually persuades Tang Mo to join her, while her pregnant mother Pak Boon takes a little more convincing.

On this particular day all three elephants were eager to enter the pool and play in the waterfall as the temperature continued to rise throughout the morning. The elephant keepers enjoyed interacting with the elephants, and didn’t mind occasionally getting splashed in the process, while throwing in treats as added enrichment.

Elephants have a natural affinity to water and can often be found bathing themselves or socialising in waterways in the wild.

Water sessions can be a great bonding experience, but can also leave some of the younger individuals out of their depth. Luckily, a strong herd mentality means that any elephant will step in to ensure the safety of another member of their group even if they need assistance.

When Pak Boon gives birth in May, Tukta will embark on a steep learning curve and will assume an alloparenting responsibility (when an individual other than the parents acts in a parenting role).

Playful water sessions will help Tukta fulfil her position as big sister and teach her how to become a dependable member of the herd.

- Elephant Keeper, Johny Wade

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