Meet ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s Asian elephant herd
Set amidst 30 acres of rolling paddocks, our nine Asian elephants can enjoy the brand new custom-designed Centre for Elephant Care.
Highlighting ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s elephant-expertise, the Centre provides more than 700m² of indoor space, and is fitted out with a host of elephant-friendly features, including one metre-deep soft sand flooring to provide maximum comfort and dimming lights to mimic night-time. Find out more about our elephants' new home.
Emmett is the herd’s only adult male and he is also father to Donna born in July 2009, Sam born in 2014 and latest arrival Elizabeth born in 2016. Learn who's who in our herd of Asian elephants.
As well as caring for our herd here at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, ZSL is involved with Asian elephants around the world. Discover how ZSL is protecting wild elephants in Thailand.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's brand new £2m Centre for Elephant Care provides the perfect complement to the herd’s seven grass paddocks.
It has been designed by award-winning architects and uses our keepers' expertise to ensure that we are leading the way in elephant care.
The Centre for Elephant Care has a host of elephant-friendly features:
- More space than ever, with more than 700m² of additional indoor space.
- A one-metre deep soft sand floor for maximum comfort for the elephants to walk on. There are also sand mounds for them to play with, or lie against as elephants like to sleep on a slight gradient.
- Dimming lights mimic the transition between natural daylight and night-time conditions.
- Timed feeding pods have been installed, which will release food to the herd at intervals to allow them to graze as and when they wish.
- Six large reclaimed oak trees are set into the floor of the Centre to provide scratching posts for the herd as well as for the keepers to hang treats, or puzzle feeders as enrichment. .
The Centre for Elephant Care highlights our commitment to providing the best home for our Asian elephant herd but visitors to the new Centre will also benefit from its new features:
- Try your hand at giving an elephant pedicure on a replica foot and also examine the species’ physiology by studying the results of an elephant skull x-ray and an ultrasound of a pregnant female.
- Watch the herd from a balconied viewing platform as they socialise together and also get a unique insight into the daily attention lavished on the pachyderms by their zookeepers.
- A large electronic board displays the live infrasonic vocalisations (very low frequency sounds that are below the threshold of human hearing) being made by the elephants so visitors will be able to see how the herd communicate with each other.
- New signage and information displays highlight the research conducted by ZSL’s vets and the lengths the keepers go to care for the elephants.
- Listen to our new elephant talks, led by the Zoo’s team of presenters, about Asian elephants’ fascinating biology and behaviour, as well as the amazing conservation work carried out by ZSL to protect the species in the wild.
Meet the herd
Get to know our eight-strong family of Asian elephants.
Emmett is the herd's only adult male and is a strong and independent elephant. He's also Dad to Sam and Elizabeth.
The largest female of the herd, Mya is not a mother herself but she is the undoubted boss, and matriarch, of the herd. Also Mya is a very greedy elephant!
Kaylee is clever and practical and she's Mum to Donna. Kaylee and Donna are very close.
Lucha doesn't like to share her food! She plays the role of protective Auntie to Donna and she is very affectionate. She also loves a bit of fuss from her keepers.
Karishma is the fastest learner in the herd, but she has also been known to make herself jump looking at her own shadow! Karishma is Elizabeth's mum.
A young and stubborn herd member. She likes to play-fight with Sam and keepers think she will be a natural mother in time to come. She's very intelligent and a great problem solver.
Sam is a typical young male who is very cheeky, boisterous and sometimes a bit naughty. He is often seen trying to wind up Elizabeth.
The youngest in the herd, Elizabeth was named in honour of HM The Queen to celebrate the latter's 90th birthday in June 2016. She is very playful and has a ‘football’ she takes everywhere and gets stroppy if it’s taken away. Elizabeth also loves to play in piles of sand.
ZSL's conservation work with Asian elephants
Asian elephants are classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and due to habitat loss, human conflict and poaching their wild populations are in decline.
The species are also listed on ZSL's EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) list, meaning there is a particularly urgent need for conservation action.
Habitat destruction and fragmentation is one of the main threats to elephants in Thailand, a major stronghold for Asian elephants. Remaining forests are under intensive pressure due to human activities. Unfortunately, this increasingly brings animals living in these forests into contact and conflict with people living nearby, for example when elephants destroy people's crops.
As part of its global conservation efforts, ZSL is currently working in Thailand to reduce human-wildlife conflict and ensure the peaceful coexistence of elephants and humans.
We are working closely with the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) in Thailand to monitor, mitigate and initiate community outreach activities that address conflict between humans and elephants.
We're using new technologies and training members of local communities to collect information to help us understand the causes of crop-raiding and to develop ways to minimise conflict.