PROVIDING WORLD CLASS CARE
Project Elephant has developed a unique Elephant Care System which aims to provide world class care for the elephants living at Blackpool Zoo. We do this by looking at a wide range of factors, with a special focus on their physiological and psychological well being.
From positive reinforcement training and habitat management to daily herd husbandry - our aim is to provide our elephants with a number of different choices to ensure their physique is cared for.
Base Camp has been designed in such a manner that to a large extent our elephants can undertake their own natural physical care with facilities such as the pool, trees, mud, mounds and boulders. One key component in the design of Base Camp has been the ability to give our elephants choices every day to ensure they are able to build up their muscles, stay flexible and reduce the risk of any future health problems.
The provision of sand allows our elephants to give themselves a dust bath, which not only acts like a giant towel to dry them off, but is commonly thought to be a way of protecting from the suns rays or keeping insects away.
The use of positive reinforcement allows one keeper to maintain the elephant's position while another keeper carries out an element of physical care.
An elephant's feet are very important - not only do they spend the vast majority of their lives standing up, they also use their feet to strip bark from trees and logs. Our foot care routines allow us to help maintain healthy feet and prevent or treat any potential foot problems.
From the provision of a stimulating environment and choice to a natural herd structure - we are continually finding ways to provide our elephants with mental stimuli.
The main focus of caring for our elephants psychological needs is based around the provision of choice. The ways we can modify their habitat on a daily basis have been developed so they will always have the option to do something should they choose.
It's important to us that our elephants are not always handed their food on a plate, so to speak. Whether it's presented through a feeding wall, suspended above them or in another innovative method - we hope to challenge them to think and use natural behaviours.
Feed and other sensory items can be concealed behind feeding walls to encourage natural foraging and investigatory behaviours - In this case, to reach through the hole in the wall and manipulate the puzzle feeder in order to release their treats.
The landscaping of their habitat can provide endless mental stimuli - through the addition of new items, moving existing items, introducing new smells, substrates or textures.
Through natural interactions and relationships between elephants, the provision of elephant life lessons and the provision of decision making - we hope to encourage our elephants to behave as naturally as they can.
Current research shows the importance of socialisation, emotion and family bonds within elephants. Our primary aim is to ensure our herd spend as much time together as is possible and as they choose to. This will enable them to continually strengthen their bonds, learn how to behave as an elephant and exhibit natural behaviours.
Feeding time is an important bonding time for elephants - the provision of a feeding wall allows our elephants to feed side by side, but with the optional addition of a physical barrier - this is particularly useful for introducing elephants to one another.
Time spent together as a herd is a huge part of caring for our elephants psychological needs - it is our aim to allow them to spend as much time as possible together, should they choose to. The herd structure and social element is especially important to young elephants - who will learn what it means to be an elephant from those around them.
The eventual addition of an adult bull will provide the herd with further stability and a sense of calm, and will have an unquestionable influence on any future young bulls.
Through veterinary examinations, trained medical procedures and preventative care we can maintain the very best levels of health for our elephants.
We hope our elephants will never get sick, but unfortunately it is a fact of life for us all. Through careful training we can ensure that our elephants are ready and willing to provide blood samples or undergo small procedures should the need ever arise.
Healthy eyes are important to any animal, and elephants are no exception. By regularly checking our elephants eyes we are able to look out for any signs of ill health or deteriorating vision.
By simulating blood draws, we are able to get our elephants comfortable to the procedure. This enables us to take regular blood samples to test for diseases such as the EEHV virus.
Daily temperature checks allow us to keep a close eye on an elephants health, as a change in temperature is often one of the very first signs should something be wrong. Using a laser thermometer, we are able to accurately record the data and therefore identify any unusual readings quickly.
To constantly achieve high standards of welfare we must be adaptable. The complex nature of elephants suggests a multi-faceted approach is key, ensuring that all areas from physical care to social care are not only met, but exceeded. .~ Luke Minns, Head Keeper
We will be continually improving the care we provide through in depth research and observation. Regular research of our own elephants will not only inform the wider scientific industry, but will better inform our own systems of care, basing our work on evidence and data rather than theory and opinion.
All of the above is carried out by a team of specialist elephant keepers, who work closely alongside external consultants and a team of veterinarians.