16th March 2017
We’re at the very start of an exciting time of development in our foot safari which will transform the whole area over the next 2-3 years. During the coming months we will be sharing our plans, so make sure you’ve signed up to the newsletter to keep up to date.
The first phase of our redevelopment plans involves the area around our elephant house, so while we’re busy creating new habitats, the elephants will be making a move to France to a new home in ZooParc de Beauval to take part in the European Breeding programme.
But where do you start when faced with moving four elephants from North West England to France? We’re always looking for more forward thinking ways to care for our animals in all aspects, including animal moves. For the comfort of our elephants before, during and after the journey, we chose to build on our existing skills by using a keeper-led training program.
To give the training process more consistency, each elephant was assigned their own keeper. Just like humans, every elephant has their own personality, which shines through in their training. Elephant keeper Jen has been working with Ashanti and has shared her experience.
Ashanti – the friendliest elephant
Ashanti is 14 years old and was born at the safari park. After her mum passed away, one of the older elephants, Juba, stepped in to take a motherly role and now the two are almost inseparable. Ashanti has taken to the training really well, bounding into each new experience with lots of enthusiasm. She’s always been quick to show off her new skills and it’s been lovely to strengthen the bond between us during the process.
Prepping for the journey!!
For the elephants, this experience is very rewarding with lots of food, attention and praise along the way. Achieving such a mammoth task involves taking small steps at a time, adapting our training styles to suit each elephant’s needs. Ashanti is actually the only elephant who has stuck to our original training plan, making her our A-* pupil!
We’ve been working closely with elephant expert Alan Roocroft right from the start and are very grateful for all the support and advice he has given us. Now we’re further along in the process we all pitch in to train each of the elephants and we all share in the excitement when any of the elephants has made a great leap in progress. It’s always been a team effort, but on the moving days we’ll each be with the elephant we were assigned to make for a smooth journey.
How they’re getting to France
Elephants are the largest living land mammal and so we need to be careful when moving them. There are several ways we can make the journey safer for them. We have created custom made transport carriers which have been specially designed for this move. There is access for us to feed and clean the elephants during transport and even a camera so we can monitor them the whole time.
Getting to know you
As we approach the move, one great thing we’ve been able to do is swap elephant poo with ZooPark de Beauval. It sounds strange but it has really helped the elephants get to know their new family in France before they’ve even met them. We’ve also swapped elephant keepers! So the team got to meet our French counterparts and the elephants got to know their new keepers. It has been lovely to see the elephant’s accepting them so quickly, and we’ve even learnt a few French words.
During this journey it has been a privilege to work so closely with these amazing animals. Seeing them take everything in their stride has been encouraging and reassuring that our training has been worth it. We will definitely miss our girls, but thanks to our new friendship with the keepers at ZooParc de Beauval we will stay very much in touch.
I’ve loved having this opportunity and can’t wait for work to begin on the new elephant house. There will be plenty to keep us busy in the meantime though. With the developments around the foot safari and new projects happening, we’re in exciting times.
For more information about the elephant move, keep an eye on our website for the latest news, or sign up to our newsletter here to hear it first!