Bamboo, the Asian elephant, is the oldest of our herd at 49 years old. That’s pretty good considering the median lifespan of an Asian elephant is 47 years! Bamboo is the grandma of our herd and with that comes some extra care and considerations. All of the elephants begin their day with a bath in which the keepers check their entire body from trunk to tail, and Bamboo is no exception. This is the time where she gets to spend one-on-one time with her keepers training and getting treats. Relationship building with the animal care team and the animals is optimal to our elephants' well-being.
Since Bamboo is an older elephant we give her as many creature comforts as we can. One of those comforts is sand. Bamboo gets to sleep on sand or grass every night. Having our elephants on a natural substrate every day and night provides them optimal conditions for rest and relaxation. A lot of mornings we can find “sand angel elephants” where the animals have slept overnight. Pretty cool! The keepers also keep Bamboo and the herd mentally stimulated every day and night with enrichment. Something like a new way to present their food can be challenging and rewarding to her. Last night she got a new puzzle feeder and loved the problem solving! The animal care staff does whatever it takes to provide our elephants with as many creature comforts as possible.
Elephants are social animals and Bamboo is no exception. Every animal has its own unique personality and Bamboo’s is one of an introvert. She is our shyest elephant. She enjoys socializing with the other elephants in the herd but she also enjoys doing things alone. She has been a good babysitter from time-to-time and the animal care team has even seen baby Achara napping under Bamboo’s feet which is a behavior that adult elephants do to guard the babies. What a wonderful natural behavior that Bamboo is showing! Bamboo has also formed a great relationship with Kandula, our 14-year-old bull (male) elephant. Kandula is the first bull that Bamboo has ever been with, a socialization opportunity that we are very proud to give her.
Overall, Bamboo is doing wonderful here at the Oklahoma City Zoo. She will always have some age related issues at this point in her life, but the animal care team will be there to help her along the way to make sure she is living a healthy and enriched life!
– Nick Newby, assistant curator of pachyderm and hoofstock