"" Writer's Wanderings: CLE Met Zoo's New Elephant Crossing

Friday, May 06, 2011

CLE Met Zoo's New Elephant Crossing

A rare gorgeous spring day in Cleveland. A new much-anticipated zoo attraction. The homecoming of our "herd" of elephants. Who could resist? Certainly not Bob and I.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has spent the last several years planning and building quite an elephant exhibit. The elephants have become stars upon their return and even have their own website! The exhibit area is huge and circles a center area that houses the indoor facility as well as souvenir shops and a small refreshment stand. There is not a bad place to stand and watch these wonderful creatures.

The exhibit encourages more activity on the part of the elephants in that their food is moved to different places in the exhibit from time to time to get them to forage as they would in the wild. I think I read somewhere that there are also buried salt blocks that they have to uncover to enjoy.
But even though there is some activity encouraged as if in the wild, they are still well trained. Inside the housing facility, there is an area where the elephants are trained to present their feet for scraping and cleaning and several other maintenance items to keep them healthy and happy. The facility was built to make it a little safer for the trainers.

Willy, the newly acquired bull elephant from Animal Kingdom in Disney World, is the only one to date that has learned to actually do the elephant crossing. The entrance to the center section of the exhibit is closed off to pedestrians twice a day so that the elephants can cross over from one area of the exhibit to the other. So far, Willy is the only one to cross over. "The girls," one trainer said, "are taking a bit longer to catch on."

The girls include Jo, Moshi, Martika, and Shenga. Each one according to their websites has a unique personality.

The exhibit also includes some Naked Mole Rats and an African Rock Python along with several species of African birds (not all in the same enclosure of course). Soon to arrive will be Meerkats one of my favorite animals. They are always entertaining. For now, their exhibit features Meerkat replicas.

Guess we'll be returning often this year. We had a great time and look forward to a "backyard" excursion on nice summer days.

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