Once completed, Project Elephant will be a state of the art facility fit to house a breeding herd of Asian Elephants (also known as Elephas maximus).
Asian Elephants are endangered in the wild and are probably one of the most iconic zoo species across the world.
Originating from the open grasslands, marshes, savannahs and tropical forests of India, Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka, this species is currently classed as endangered mainly due to illegal hunting and habitat loss to deforestation and farming.
They travel long distances looking for food, including grasses, leaves, trees and shrubs. In the zoo, elephants are fed on horse and pony pellets, fruit, vegetables, bran, hay, straw, browse and vitamins.
Asian elephants live between 60 and 70 years and can produce a single calf every two years as pregnancy lasts for 22 months, longer than any other land mammal. The calves weigh much the same at birth as an adult human being.
WHERE WILL OUR NEW ELEPHANTS COME FROM?
Sourcing elephants is no easy task, and there are a lot of factors to consider. The elephants which will reside in our new enclosure will be joining us from another zoo or safari park in the UK or Europe. Various options for a settled, probably single family, group are being pursued by our animal staff with the EEP (European Endangered Species Programme) co-ordinator who provides a population management programme for these endangered animals. Their recommendation will assist in finding the group of elephants most suited to Blackpool Zoo.
WHAT IS THE EEP?
We talk a lot about the EEP - that's short for European Endangered Species Programme. The EEP is the most intensive type of population management for a species kept in EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) zoos. Each EEP has a coordinator who has a special interest in and knowledge of the species concerned, who is working in an EAZA zoo or aquarium and is assisted by a Species Committee. The coordinator has many tasks to fulfil, such as collecting information on the status of all the animals of the species for which they are responsible, producing a studbook, carrying out demographic and genetic analyses, and producing a plan for the future management of the species.
WHEN AND HOW WILL THE NEW ELEPHANTS ARRIVE?
There are various ways of transporting elephants, including by air. However, it is likely that the elephants taking up residence here will travel by road either in specially designed trailers or travelling crates on a low loader transporter. Either way, a great deal of work goes into the preparation of both transport and animals. Specialist exotic animal transporters are a rare commodity and we often have to wait several months to be fitted into a route with the correct vehicle. Paperwork is extensive with health checks, breeding records and veterinary information about individuals being collated prior to transporting them. Training the animals themselves to go into a crate or trailer can also take several weeks, so advance planning is definitely the key!
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO KATE?
Kate is a very special member of our Zoo family. She came here as an orphan from India when the zoo opened in 1972, so this has been her home since she was just 2 years old. Kate’s companions recently passed away so, currently, she is the only elephant at the Zoo. Kate has been observed by experts and is monitored around the clock by her highly-trained keepers. Her pattern of behaviour indicates she is happy, healthy and comfortable.
Management and keepers are working very closely with the Asian Elephant European Endangered Species Program (EEP) to secure the future of this magnificent species at Blackpool Zoo and Kate is very much part of these discussions.