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What a year!

Hi-ya everyone! Elephant Keeper Caleb again! It’s hard to believe that next month is my one-year anniversary as a part of the Elephant Care Team, and wow, what a year it’s been!

In June 2019, we moved Kelly and Tara, our longtime African elephants of the Zoo, from their old elephant space into the state-of-the-art Zambezi Elephant Center on the brand-new African Savanna expansion. The following month, we welcomed Msholo, a 30-year-old bull, to Zoo Atlanta from San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and he has since become an integral member of our elephant herd as a social companion for Kelly and Tara. Then, in August, we opened the African Savanna expansion! And since that opening, we have continued to stay very busy! We welcomed four new meerkats to the Zoo, moved our two meerkat mobs to their new homes on the African Savanna, and even went through a very important accreditation process with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

And even now, despite the Zoo being closed, superior animal care, enrichment, and training continues! Here in the Zambezi Elephant Center, one thing we are really enjoying is having extra time to do is additional projects like extra training time, creating fun enrichment, and making videos for our Zoo’s social media team to share with our supporters!

When we think about enrichment for our animals, the animal care teams look at ways we can replicate natural behaviors we would see from our animals’ wild counterparts. For instance, meerkats in the wild spend large amounts of time digging, climbing, and investigating, so our team has been having a lot of fun building unique structures for our boys to climb and play in. From sandcastles to clubhouses, watching the meerkat boys investigate, climb, (and destroy) them has been quite a treat. For the elephants, we have about 10 major categories of enrichment that we vary up for the elephants based on natural elephant behaviors we want to encourage. For example, in the wild, African elephants are constantly foraging from trees in order to obtain food. They need to manipulate logs and standing trees using their trunks and tusks to achieve this! So one of the enrichment categories for our elephants is trunk/tusk manipulation, so we enrich our elephants in a similar manner! The Zoo’s Horticulture Team has been providing us with fresh browse (cut tree branches) and logs for the elephants to manipulate and eat. When we are fortunate to get large logs, our elephants will spend hours manipulating the logs with their trunks and using their tusks to chip off pieces of bark for them to eat and enjoy! It’s fascinating to watch! And even the world of naked mole rats, which the Elephant Care Team also takes care of, our colony of 29 naked mole rats are getting daily enrichment like novel substrates to explore and dig in, as well as varied ways we present them their daily meals!

So with that, I hope you continue to enjoy the amazing content our social media team has been posting these past few weeks focusing on enrichment and training here at the Zoo (especially the elephant-related ones, of course). These are difficult weeks, but these weeks won’t last forever. Stay safe, stay healthy, and we look forward to seeing you back on the African Savanna as soon as we can!
Caleb U.
Keeper I, Elephants

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl