There are many important little details built in to the design of Project Elephant Base Camp, all of which help us to provide a stimulating environment for our herd.
One particularly important piece of equipment is the water cannon, which is situated on our Keepers’ Observation Deck overlooking the outside sand habitat. The cannon uses recycled rainwater which, after going through a cleaning process, is stored in our 55,000 litre underground tank ready for use – perfect for showering elephants out in the paddock and keeping them cool on a warm day.
While some of the herd enjoy splashing around in the pool, Kate still hasn’t taken the plunge and has only dipped her toes in the water. The recent warm weather gave us the perfect opportunity to test out the water cannon, and much to everyone’s surprise, Kate absolutely loved it!
Whenever we use the water cannon, as with anything we do at Base Camp, it’s important that the elephants make the choice whether or not to participate. For this reason, we will turn on the jet and allow the elephant the choice to enter under it whenever they wish. Kate is quick to take advantage whenever the opportunity should arise, but the others in the herd have been taking their time to get used to the whole concept and currently much prefer to use the pool to cool down.
The spray of rainwater from the water cannon, which can reach as far as 60m, has been a welcome relief to Kate this Spring and she hasn’t been able to get enough of it! Not only does it cool her down when the weather warms up, it also provides her with a full body massage from the powerful jet of water. Kate’s frequently been spotted placing her trunk in her mouth and swinging her head around under the jumbo sized power shower, as you can see in the video.
Once the jet is switched off, the fun doesn’t stop. The large volume of water from the cannon then pools in the sand beneath her feet, and she can be seen rolling around and flinging sand over herself.
As with everything we do at Base Camp, we want to encourage as much natural behaviour from our herd as possible. Whenever an elephant gets wet, be it by swimming in a pool or river or by standing in the rain, they can then be seen covering themselves in sand or dirt. They do this for many different reasons, firstly because the dirt acts as a giant towel and helps them to dry off quickly, it can also act as a natural barrier against the sun and any insects that might be flying around. They’ll often roll around in the sand or dirt in order to get the optimum sandy coverage, a technique which also naturally exfoliates their skin, removing dead skin cells and promoting hair growth! Rolling around will also keep the elephants flexible as they move their large bodies into different positions, in turn strengthening joints, muscles and tendons – for an elephant fast approaching 50 years old, like Kate, the whole process can leave you feeling much younger, fitter and refreshed!
So what may appear to be a simple water cannon providing a 5 minute shower, there may be up to half an hour or more spent undertaking a whole host of natural behaviours.