Did you know that elephants are excellent swimmers? You may find it surprising, but an elephant’s body is actually very buoyant and allows them to float easily.
They can swim completely submerged, with their head above the water and their mouths below, using all four legs to paddle. They use their trunks like a snorkel, enabling them to breathe normally while swimming.
One of the most exciting features of Base Camp is the large outdoor pool we’ve provided for our herd. With a total area of 225m² (that’s just slightly smaller than a tennis court), the pool gently slopes down to a depth of 3m, which allows an elephant to swim fully submerged.
The pool can hold a whopping 19,163 litres (or 33,722 pints) of water and is fed directly from our rainwater harvesting tank, which is capable of storing up to 55,000 litres of recycled rainwater collected from the roof of the building.
Base Camp has been designed with many features that allow our elephants to undertake their own natural physical care. The pool is just one example of this, as it allows them to bathe themselves and keep clean, as well as enjoying a refreshing dip come rain or shine! It also gives the elephants the choice to swim, which will help strengthen their ligaments, muscles and generally keep in shape.
Providing our elephants with choice is the most important considerations of our new elephant care programme, and it is through their own choice that our elephants enter the pool. From time to time keepers will encourage them into the pool with the use of food (think large scale apple bobbing!), but whether they choose to take part is entirely up to them.
Since the weather has warmed up a little bit, we saw that Minbu was the first of the herd to enter the pool. Minbu spent a lot of time in the pool at her previous home at Twycross Zoo, and while she can be cautious of new situations, she showed no hesitation in quite literally getting in the deep end. After spending a while watching Minbu, a few weeks later we saw Tara take the plunge and she hasn’t looked back since!
Kate has never been a big fan of pools, showing no interest in the old pool in her former home and to date she hasn’t set foot in the new pool at Base Camp.
With the weather forecasts for the Bank Holiday Monday looking like perfect swimming weather, we set up a hidden camera to record our elephants in the pool.
You’ll see from the footage how Tara enters down the gentle slope and ends up fully submerging herself (all in the search for apples!). After spending around 15 minutes in the pool, she climbs back up the slope and gets out of the water, immediately treating herself to a dust bath to dry off!