Snow Zone!

Carnivores, Cheetahs, Elephants, Ungulates


This past week, Wildlife Safari was transformed into a winter wonderland when the park experienced the most snow in recent history. Although the park had to close for the time, the animals sure had fun experiencing some snow and enjoying extra browse from fallen trees. Animals that are more sensitive to cold temperatures were not left out for the full day, only in short segments in order for keepers to clean inside holdings and for them to enjoy the snow. All animals in the park have access to heat lamps and covered shelter if needed. Even our smallest cheetah and dog duo got to pop outside for a few minutes to experience their first snowfall! The park is working hard to clear snow and any debris and getting ready to reopen the park!


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The Big Times – Working with Elephants

Elephants, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized

Wildlife Safari is home to many creatures, from the tiny to the huge! The Elephant department looks after the biggest of the bunch. With five elephants, this herd keeps their care takers pretty busy! George (35 yrs), Tava (38), Valerie (34) and Moja (34) are African elephants, with their characteristic large ears and overall body size. Liz (52) is the only Asian elephant in the troop, but this doesn’t stop her from being in charge. As the matriarch of the group she demands respect. “She’s a tough cookie,” says Elephant Supervisor Dinah Wilson about Liz. “She has strength, attitude, confidence –  comfortable in any setting.”

All the elephants have their own distinct personalities, and their keepers love getting to know them and spending time with them. George wins everyone’s hearts with his charm and sweet disposition; Tava loves her training sessions – she strives for perfection and loves to learn; Moja is very inquisitive (with the largest ears anyone has ever seen); and Valerie is super playful – toys or no she’ll find a way to have fun, even if it’s throwing dust!

Tracy with Tava

Keeper Tracy with Tava, an African elephant

 

With five large animals there is a lot of cleaning to be done, which takes up most of the keepers’ day. Then comes the husbandry work, the time where keepers make sure everyone is happy and healthy. Bathing, brushing, foot checks and overall health checks are important parts of making sure the elephants are at their best. “Then there is the training and interaction,” says Tracy Moser, Elephant Keeper. “Where we work with the elephants, giving them the chance to do exercises or physical therapy, do things that are stimulating and enriching for their brains as well as bodies – and of course letting guests meet the elephants!”

Keeper Tracy with Moja, an African Elephant

Keeper Tracy with Moja, an African Elephant

Working with such large and intelligent animals is incredible, but comes with a unique set of challenges.”You have to be a couple steps ahead, because they’ll be a couple steps ahead of you,” says keeper Courtney. “Everything here is big – large yards, gates, everything. Enrichment items are also very big, so you have to be pretty strong.”

Their intelligence makes training sessions particularly interesting. “You’re not just training an animal to robotically perform a behaviour – they will work in tandem with you to make it the way you want it. It’s really neat – different from any other animal,” says Courtney.

Smiles

 

“Seeing how intelligent they are, that’s the most impressive thing about them. They have such distinct personalities and the way you can bond with them,” says Wilson, who has worked with elephants for 40 years. “It’s complex, there are a lot of different aspects to providing proper care, and safety too.” Safety considerations are vital when working with such huge, smart creatures. With trunks that stretch so far, and the strength to pick up large objects, keepers need to be aware at all times, and considerable thought needs to go into what toys they can play with.

Although there are an abundance of wonderful things about being close to such amazing animals, Wilson says that what she loves most about her work is seeing the bond that keepers form with the animals. Watching her staff develop their training relationships with the elephants is the most rewarding part of her job as supervisor. “It’s so much fun to see those relationships develop,” she says.

Full of rewarding hard work and fun with the elephants, staff love each day there, and love introducing people to these amazing animals. “No day is boring here,” says Wilson – so come and see it for yourself!

 

 

 

Elephant Artists

Behind the Scenes, Elephants, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized
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Painting supplies at the elephant barn – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

Elephants are known for their intelligence, but not everyone knows about their finesse as artists! At Wildlife Safari, our elephants paint as an enrichment activity – something fun for them to do – but it also allows people to take home a unique keepsake. Not everyone has a painting done by an elephant in their gallery!

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Keeper Courtney cleans up after a painting session – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

The elephants paint on a lot of their encounters. It makes a good training exercise for them, and elephants are always happy for their snack rewards! “It’s fun for the elephants to do, but it’s also fun for the guests to watch,” says Tracy Moser, one of the Elephant Keepers at Wildlife Safari. “We work with the elephants to hold onto a sponge,” she explains. “We figured a sponge would work better than a paint brush since elephants have a lot of moisture in their nose which can drip down onto the canvas. While they hold onto the sponge, one of the staff will hold the canvas in front of them and they’ll stretch out their nose and paint however they like!”

Typically a painting will have three or four colors before it is pronounced complete. Then comes the clean up part of the session. “When they are done they will politely hand their sponge back to their trainer,” says Moser. Then it’s time for some trunk cleaning to get rid of any paint drips on the artist’s nose.

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Elephant painting session – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

The elephant’s also make foot print paintings! For these the elephants take a more laid back approach, allowing their keepers to paint and stamp with their feet rather than compose the painting themselves. “George in particular has impressive feet since he is our largest elephant. so we do a lot of foot prints with him,” says Moser. “We do back and front foot pints, and what’s neat about that is they look completely different, because the shape is different.”

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Keeper Nick holds the canvas for an elephant painting session – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

Every painting is different and is an expression of that elephant artist’s personality, whether they are slow and careful or fast and eccentric. “All of our elephants have a different style to their paintings, a different technique,” says Moser.

Just some paint, a sponge and an elephant and you end up with a master piece!

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The finished product! – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser