Over a year ago, we asked ourselves, how do you move fully grown elephants to France? Well, now we have our answer! In July 2017 we waved off the first two of our elephants as they started their journey to France and their exciting new home. They shared their travels with our dedicated team from Knowsley Safari including two of the keepers who’ve been at the heart of this whole adventure, Jen and Alex.
We asked Jen and Alex to share some of the exciting news from the journey and fill us in on how the elephants are getting on in their new French home. Here’s what they told us.
The first and most important step
Our day started at 6:00AM, where we had a group catch up, de-brief and a cuppa. The elephant keepers headed down to section to begin the preparations.
Move day begins
After months of training all of our hard work had paid off. Having key trainers for Juba and Ashanti helped us to establish a strong relationship which was reflected in the calm and smooth loading of the elephants into the transport crates. Find out more about the training process here.
Jen, calling Ashanti into the crate, just like we’d trained to do.
After the elephants were given browse (mostly birch tree – their favourite!) and water we were on our way. Bon Voyage!
A jumbo journey
We took many pre-planned service station stops in both England and France. Here we checked on each of the elephants and offered them food and water. Each crate was specifically designed for elephants and had feeding areas built in to them, which allowed us to access Juba and Ashanti both easily and safely. For the whole journey they both preferred freshly cut browse that we had prepared that morning, rather than their hay and pellets.
Driving in convoy the whole way
In between each stop, there were camera systems in place so we could observe the elephants during the journey. We noticed that once on the road, the elephants were settled and tucked into their food.
Settling in for our overnight ferry
At each stop, especially in England we were quite popular with the general public! Many people did not believe what was on the transporter.
Arriving in France
Part of their training at Knowsley was to re-enact the unloading process, so the elephants knew what to expect on arrival. Even after the long journey, the girls still remembered their training. We unloaded Juba first – she came straight out and Alex set to work settling her into her new home. Within minutes, Juba was enjoying dusting herself with sand.
Our girls exploring one of their new paddocks.
Ashanti was unloaded quickly with encouragement from Jen, she walked straight over to Juba. They greeted each other with rumbles and touching each other’s faces with their trunks, a very emotional moment for all us. After this, we loaded them up with food, let them settle for a few hours. When we came back in the night to check on them, both elephants were relaxed and investigating their new home.
Juba and Ashanti are currently living within a newly built elephant house, separate from the other elephants already living at Beauval. This allows them to settle in and become accustomed to their new home. It is very important that the introduction to their new family is done very slowly, to ensure its success. The first week we focused on introducing Juba and Ashanti to all of the different areas in their new environment, taking one day at a time. This also allowed them to smell and communicate vocally with the other elephants; N’Dala, M’Kali, Marge and Rungwe. Each day they became more relaxed and comfortable in their new surroundings.
See you soon girls!
On the day we left it was very emotional for us both, we were so happy to see how well both of them had adapted so quickly in Beauval, but on the other hand, we were sad to say goodbye for now.