A young elephant has been treated to a birthday banquet at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo before the real celebrations get under way during the Zoo’s Elephantastic event on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 September.
Zookeepers prepared an enormous banquet of hay, fruit and vegetables for youngster Sam, who turns three years old on the first day of the Zoo’s annual two-day celebration of Asian elephants.
Sam, who was born to parents Azizah and Emmett at Whipsnade in 2014, wasted no time in getting stuck into his birthday surprise, which included some of his favourite healthy snacks such as watermelons, bananas and apples.
Zookeeper Stefan Groeneveld said: “Sam is a typical young male elephant; he’s very cheeky and loves nothing more than to wind up the youngest member of the herd, Elizabeth, so we knew he’d love getting his tusks stuck into an early birthday present.
“Celebrating animals’ birthdays is not only a bit of fun as we can get creative making presents such as this, but also serves as a reminder of the importance of our work in caring for a growing herd of endangered Asian elephants that contribute to vital breeding programmes.
“Marking the worldwide Elephant Appreciation Weekend, we’re inviting Elephantastic visitors to find out what it takes to care for a herd of pachyderms, with behind-the-scenes guided tours of the herd’s new home, as well as getting to see the incredible creatures graze in their 30-acre paddocks.”
Visitors to Elephantastic can also enjoy close encounters with the Zoo’s elephants, feeding them a fruity snack and having their photo taken, for a small donation towards ZSL’s (Zoological Society of London) elephant conservation work.
Classified as Endangered by the IUCN due to threats including habitat loss, human conflict and poaching, wild populations of Asian elephants are in decline.
Elephants also face a growing threat from a virus, known as EEHV, which can be fatal and ZSL’s vets, conservationists and researchers are trying to understand what causes this disease and are working in Thailand to reduce human-wildlife conflict, ensuring the peaceful coexistence of elephants and humans.