Zookeepers treated baby Asian elephant Elizabeth to a set of new footballs to play with as the young pachyderm celebrated her first birthday.
Baby Elizabeth, who turns one on Saturday 10 June, took a liking to using her trunk to ‘dribble’ an inflatable medicine ball around her 30-acre exhibit from an early age, leading zookeepers to choose the footballs as the perfect present for the youngest, and most energetic, member of the herd of nine Asian elephants.
In fact, Elizabeth gets so much enjoyment from running around playing football that she rarely allows the other herd members – or indeed, her zookeepers – a chance to take the ball off her.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo elephant keeper Mark Howes said: “We knew Elizabeth would absolutely love her birthday presents – as well as providing a wonderful source of fun and stimulation; it keeps her very active too.
“For a little elephant Elizabeth certainly has a trunkful of skills when it comes to dribbling a football; she’s somewhat of a natural with the ball!
“When elephants are first born it can take them a little while to work out how to make the most of their trunk, which contains more than 40,000 muscles, but we have all been amazed by how quickly Elizabeth mastered it, and how much control she seems to have.”
As a newborn, Elizabeth weighed approximately 130kg but one year on she is now tipping the scales at just under half-a-tonne (480kg).
The female elephant – named after HM The Queen as she was born just before Her Majesty’s 90th birthday celebrations in 2016 – can be seen in the herd’s brand new Centre for Elephant Care, which was opened by HM The Queen in April this year.