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Checking in with Kelly, Tara and the meerkats

As construction continues on their new habitat in the new Grand New View African savanna, the elephants Kelly and Tara are both keeping themselves busy with mud-throwing and dust baths, and we’re looking forward to those hot summer days when they’ll lie down and roll in the wallows to thoroughly saturate themselves. Keeping the appropriate strata of mud, dirt, hay and other materials plastered across the lengths of their bodies is a full-time job for the elephants, just as washing all of this away is a full-time job for the elephant care team. We keep quite the symbiotic relationship going.

A large part of the elephants’ diet consists of browse materials, so with all the trees blooming and the branches growing heavy with fresh leaves, we all look forward to the days when we can fill their habitat with oak and elm and other tasty-tree varieties for the elephants to enjoy. Tara likes to rush out and grab as much as she can carry, then drag it all to a quiet corner to eat. Kelly generally eats as she walks, picking up a branch and holding it down with her foot while she strips all the leaves off with a single pull of her trunk, then dropping the stick and moving on to the next, all the while making her way over to Tara’s pile, which she appropriates as if it was hers all along. Tara makes do with sticks and bark, and judging by her 8,000-plus pounds, she thrives on the harder stuff.

The meerkats are doing great in their new home. When construction began on Grand New View, the meerkats moved to a new habitat down near the Wieland Wildlife Home (behind the petting zoo and near the Zoo train tracks), and they seem to like the change in scenery. We’ve successfully integrated what were formerly two groups into a single mob, and to say that the lone male is enjoying his current status would be an understatement. Blaze sleeps well under a pile of female meerkats. And the naked mole rats, meanwhile, are as thermoconformic as ever. That’s news from the elephant team, where the people are filthy but our intentions are pure.
Josh Mancebo
Keeper II, Elephants

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