The Oklahoma City Zoo is a place that my family and I have always enjoyed. My first trip to the Zoo was in 1998 when I was about six months old and I have been visiting ever since. The Zoo recently added something new called Wild Encounters! I was very intrigued by this. After researching, I found that guests get behind-the-scenes interactions with some of the amazing animals that call the Zoo their home.
I was so excited to see what this was all about, so I signed up my 11-year-old sister, Michaela, and me for an Elephant Wild Encounter. I had many other animals to choose from such as grizzly bears, sea lions, flamingos, Galapagos tortoises and rhinos. But, my sister is a complete elephant fanatic, so I decided that the elephants were the way to start my Wild Encounter experiences.
We received confirmation that we were to meet the Experience Guides at 2:45 p.m. at a sign right outside of the elephant enclosures. We met Bethany, our lovely Experience Guide, and Allison, our photographer, who took us in a golf cart back to the elephant barns. Bethany explained that this trip was photo-friendly! Luckily, Michaela and I remembered our phones! At this point, I saw the excitement and anticipation of my little sister by a smile that spread from ear-to-ear across her face and a nervous bounce of her leg the entire cart ride. Bethany showed us some behind-the-scenes areas leading up to going inside the barn. She gave us the scoop on everything there is to know, especially about the Zoo’s elephant herd. One of my favorite things I learned is how one of our male elephants, Rex, has the look of freckles on his face because he is an older elephant--almost like age spots for humans.
The female elephants--we were about to meet--moved inside the barn. Our zookeeper, Amy, brought us inside and we went over a few safety rules because we were about to be so close to the elephants. Then, we went inside the barn where the keepers were training Asha, Chandra and baby Achara, which are three of the female elephants at the Zoo. It was breathtaking how amazing these girls were once we were right next to them. They were so tall and strong, yet very elegant in the way they moved. It was incredible to see how nimble their trunks are when they went to pick up their favorite treats.
After admiring the girls for a bit, getting to chat with the keepers, and asking them any and every question we could think of, the keepers told us would get to touch baby Achara! Michaela looked as though she was ready to pass out. We both got a turn to stand next to Achara and give her a little love by rubbing her side while Allison snapped a couple of pictures for us. As we were saying bye to the keepers, elephant Chandra, who had been playing in her water bowl, sprayed my sister and I with water. Michaela swears that it was the single “greatest moment” in her life! After our Wild Encounter, we bought our picture as a super cute souvenir. This was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience that is definitely worth every dime and created a family memory we will never forget. I am super excited to book my next animal encounter!!!
--Jackie Crawford, Zoo guest (and fan!)