Summer is upon us at the OKC Zoo, and the elephants have already begun utilizing one of their most-enjoyed creature comforts – the water features! When you visit the Asian elephant herd during this time of the year, you’ll likely witness the elephants swimming and playing in the water. Our habitats have ample opportunities for the animals to cool down when the Oklahoma summer heat begins. Our largest habitat has a 220,000 galloon pool that is 12-feet deep, which allows the elephants to completely submerge themselves to swim.
Our youngest elephants learn to swim at a very early age, usually around 4-6 months. From then on, it serves as one of the many activities to burn energy and have fun! Achara loves to take a dip at least once a day. Although she leaves the pool squeaky clean, you can always count on her to head straight to the mud wallow immediately afterward to re-apply her elephant “sunscreen”.
The waterfall serves as a favorite spot to the largest resident in the city, Rex! He loves getting underneath the falls and letting the water cascade onto his head and back. This helps cool him as well on those hot summer days. He also enjoys splashing water all over his body and wading in the pools. But Rex seems to enjoy his pool time in secret. In fact, when any of his caretakers attempt to sneak a video of him wading, he quickly climbs out of the pool. He seems to be too much of a macho man to be caught having fun.
The animal caretakers are very proactive in their approach to the summer months as well. Each day the animals get a variety of things to help them with the summer temperatures. One of those items are ice treats. Caretakers will freeze ice blocks filled with some of the elephant’s favorite treats and present those to the animals in many different ways. This not only helps cool them off but also challenges their minds as they begin to figure out how to get a treat out of the middle of the ice. Luckily, finding a way to smash the ice is not too difficult when you weigh 8,000 pounds.
Finally, another way we help cool the elephants off is the old fashioned way, a water hose. Each day we will spray the elephants down in the afternoon and give them an opportunity to play in the hose and sprinklers. This is an activity that they seem to love as well. The interaction with the caretakers and having water fun at the same time makes for a match made in heaven!
– Nick Newby, assistant curator of pachyderms