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Making the best of a cold snap

It’s been a quiet week in the Zambezi Elephant Center. Our entire team has been laying low and weathering the sudden blast of autumn. For some it might seem as though we’ve retreated to the warmth of our new upstairs office, away from the wind and the cold and the constant cleaning and the other demands of the job, to a quiet place where the floor is never dirty and the coffee is brewed on demand. The reality of the situation is the exact opposite (except for such times of unfortunate labor as when one is required to sit at a computer). As a rule, we animal care professionals prefer to be outside (except for the Herpetology Department, perhaps, but they’re a cold-blooded bunch). It takes some getting used to, but we’re the type of people who suffer the elements with nary a whimper. Summer weather? We just sweat and drink water by the gallon. Wintry weather? We just bundle up and make sure the coffee doesn’t run out. Spring time brings good weather and bad allergies, and the indecisive autumn is an uncouth mixture of all the other seasons, generously peppered with falling leaves and too much wind. We take it all in stride and work alongside our animal teammates as best we can, given their temperature sensitivities.

The elephants don’t particularly enjoy cold temperatures, so with this cold snap we’ve been having, we’ve given them access to the indoors in the Zambezi Elephant Center where they’re most comfortable. Kelly and Tara are both used to our climate and are less bothered by chilly weather; they’re perfectly happy to seek out a sunny spot in the habitat and bask for hours at a time. Msholo, being a southern California elephant, is still new to Atlanta, and we’re working hard to make sure he’s comfortable during his acclimation. He sleeps indoors on a giant bed of sand, under the heaters with the barn temperature cranked up to a comfortable 65 degrees.

We spend our days cleaning the Elephant Center and doing positive reinforcement training activities with the elephants until the sun is up and the weather pleasant enough to give them access to their habitats. In addition to the spacious new outdoor habitats, having seven stalls and three paddocks, is a significant expansion of our former elephant complex, and they all also seem to be enjoying foot scrubs, back scrubs, training activities, enrichment, hay nets, bamboo bundles, barrels and balls and boxes. We make the best of a cold day.

The meerkats are huddled together and alternate between unnecessary vigilance and sleepy satiation, either glaring at the world or gorging on crickets and meatballs. The new boys bark and scamper at the slightest provocation, while our old man Blaze demonstrates a Zen-like patience in our presence and barely bothers to stir a whisker at us.

And those naked mole rats have it the best of all. They sleep and eat and wander around, and their tunnels are kept between a balmy 95 degrees and a temperate 115, which is probably the best weather possible if you’re always naked.

And that’s the news from the Zambezi Elephant Center Team.
Josh M.
Keeper III, Elephants

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