Tuesday, March 30
Good day everyone! Spring is here at Zoo Atlanta, and that means welcoming some warmer weather (and that wonderful yearly coating of pollen that we can’t avoid). In the Elephant Department, warmer weather is always a fantastic change from the winter. It also means the addition of a very important part of our animals’ environment: MUD.
You might wonder how making things dirtier for us would actually be welcome as zookeepers. Well for our elephants and warthogs, mud in an important part of their daily lives in warmer weather. In the winter, we apply mineral oil to help keep their skin from drying out. Once spring has come, it means we get to start filling up the wallows in the habitats with water, so that our animals can do what they do naturally.
Elephants and warthogs don’t sweat. It’s very important that they have access to mud wallows and different water sources to help keep them hydrated and cool as we get into the summer. Covering themselves in mud is also a natural way of providing them with insect repellent. A nice layer of mud helps our animals protect themselves from all those pesky insects. As well, the coating of mud acts like a sunscreen.
Mud is very important to the care that our animals do for themselves. Their rough skin is actually helped when they apply a coat of mud. If you watch some of our animals after they have a mud bath, the first they do will be to find something to scratch on. That layer of mud acts as an abrasive that actually helps remove old, dead skin and encourages the growth of new skin. So much like going to the spa, getting dirty is sometimes just what you need to do to feel better.
Getting muddy is sometimes a very tiring event, and many times in the afternoon you will find our warthogs taking naps in the mud. They are very content to sleep the hot afternoons away. So if you ever get the chance to see our elephants or warthogs rolling around or tossing mud over their heads onto their backs, know that you are seeing some natural behaviors that their wild counterparts do also.
Keeper III, Elephants
(Photo by Steve Crews)