Two Asian Elephants enjoying eating foliage together.

A nest of fun for World Elephant Day

12 August 2019

Melbourne Zoo’s Asian Elephants have been treated to an extra special surprise from zookeepers ahead of World Elephant Day on Monday, August 12.

The majestic herd of six received a fresh delivery of bamboo, which was laid out creatively to resemble a giant nest, with the elephants’ titan weight balls placed in the middle.

The elephants gleefully tucked into their tasty greens and vocalized with delight. However, just like any youngster who likes to play before finishing their meal, six-year-old Man Jai took straight to his toys.

Using all his strength, the 1600kg elephant pushed and kicked the heavily weighted egg-shaped enrichment balls around his exhibit, and even attempted to lift one over a tall barrier of rocks with his trunk.

Trail of the Elephants Precinct Coordinator Andrea Smith said the titan balls were heavily weighted towards the bottom to rock back and forth and encourage play behaviours.

“Asian Elephants were once widespread throughout Asia, with as few as 41,000 remaining in the wild. Poaching for their ivory and the destruction of their natural habitat to make way for palm-oil plantations has resulted in a dramatic decline of their species.”

“The titan balls are custom-designed devices to encourage problem-solving,” she said. “Man Jai in particular will play with them for hours, providing a great form of enrichment for him.”

Melbourne Zoo is celebrating World Elephant Day tomorrow with a variety of activities for visitors of all ages, including special training and enrichment sessions with the elephants, keeper talks, face painting, a life-size elephant puppet and an elephant bio fact touch-table.

Ms Smith is asking the public to get involved in the fun and help to generate awareness about this endangered species.

“Asian Elephants were once widespread throughout Asia, with as few as 41,000 remaining in the wild,” she said. “Poaching for their ivory and the destruction of their natural habitat to make way for palm-oil plantations has resulted in a dramatic decline of their species.”

Zoos Victoria’s ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’ campaign aims to raise awareness about unsustainable palm oil production in the habitat of the Asian Elephant and also advocates for the clear labelling of palm oil on products in Australia. A change in labelling would enable consumers to make informed choices at the supermarket and help prevent further destruction of natural habitats. Anyone can pledge their support at zoo.org.au/don’t-palm-us-off.

The Elephants at Melbourne Zoo are part of international breeding programs, which aim to maintain a genetically diverse population of the species in the fight against extinction.

Visitors can see Melbourne Zoo’s majestic elephants Mek Kapah, Dokkoon, Num-Oi, Kulab, Mali and Man Jai up close for World Elephant Day or any other day of the year from, 9am-5pm, seven days a week.