Day in the life of an elephant keeper
Friday 30 April 2004
I arrive at elephant house with the other elephant keepers at around 7.30am, and we are usually greeted by the female elephants who flap their ears at us
The first job of the day is to sweep the barn out before preparing a hearty breakfast for all the elephants. Breakfast usually consists of nutritional pellets with vitamins and bananas - breakfast is just as important for elephants as it is for people!
After breakfast it's time to wash behind their ears! Being such large animals it takes quite a long time to wash each elephant but we've got the routine down to a fine art. We wash one elephant at a time, first the elephant is sprayed with a jet hose before they lay down on one side.
Using a wire brush and soapy water we scrub each elephant from top to toe making sure we don't miss any areas. With one side scrubbed and rinsed, the elephant stands up and then lays down ready for the other side to be cleaned. Cleaning the elephant's everyday is really important to remove dirt and dead skin.
Elephant Kaylee and calf with their zoo keeper
Washing the elephants also reinforces the bonds that we have with each of the elephants, they understand that we put a lot of time and effort into looking after them and in turn we have developed strong relationships with each of them.
Once the elephants are washed, they taken to the outside paddock where we feed them browse, which are branches with leaves that the elephant enjoy eating. While the elephants tuck into their browse, me and the rest of the keepers tuck into our lunch.
After lunch we have the toughest job of the day, washing down and scrubbing the barn clean.
My favourite part of the day is when we take the elephants out for a walk, at the moment we take the Kaylee and her calf, Lucha and Aziza. First we walk to the arena so that all the visitors can get a close up view of the baby elephant. The elephants also enjoy their walk through the Park, because it is good exercise and fun for them. On the way back, they often pull down the odd branch from trees on the way or stop to fling dirt onto their backs!
Back in the elephant house we wash the elephant's feet to make sure they are clean and free from any small stones or twigs which might irritate them during the night.
Its feeding time again, all the elephants are brought into the house for the evening where they are fed hay and fruit. While they tuck into this, all the keepers clean the outside yards.
We usually finish up at around 6pm, at the end of the day the elephants say goodbye to us by flapping their ears and trumpeting to us.