Newsmakers: Tembo Trail makes splash at zooWritten by Maggie Dziubek | | firstname.lastname@example.org
According to her landlord, Renee, a single mother with two sons, Louie, 10, and Lucas, 1 1/2, is settling in nicely with her family into their new home at Two Hippo Way in Toledo.
In the eight months since the Tembo Trail African elephant exhibit opened at the Toledo Zoo, the elephant herd, zookeepers and visitors have enjoyed the exhibit’s new facilities.
“It’s been very well-received. We’ve received lots and lots of compliments about the exhibits,” said Andi Norman, director of marketing and public relations. “People love how close they can get to the animals.”
The new trail, which replaced the older African Savannah exhibit, wraps around the elephants’ enclosure and offers more space, with 37,680 square feet outdoors. This extra space was added with the growing size of the herd in mind.
Twiggy, a female elephant, was integrated into the Toledo herd after being rescued from an Indiana circus in 2010. So far, Twiggy has been forming a successful bond with Lucas, and with the extra space the zoo is open to exploring breeding opportunities.
With the new space comes new opportunities for educational programs working with the elephant herd. One event, “Trunk and Bunk,” which occurred over the summer, gave youth groups the opportunity to spend the night at the zoo making enrichment items for the elephants.
The enrichment activities provide challenges for the elephants, presenting them with obstacles that allow them to hunt for their food. For example, food will be placed in overhead feeders above the elephants’ eyeline.
“The overhead feeders, they’re on remote controls, so they don’t know where they’re going to be during the day,” Norman said “The keepers can move them throughout the day. It encourages them to move about and to exhibit natural behaviors.”
Zoo trainers use only positive reinforcement with the animals.
“If they don’t want to do something, they don’t have to, but if they participate, they get a treat,” Norman said
New features on the trail include an indoor viewing area and an outdoor concrete pad where zoo visitors can watch trainers working with the elephants.
“Visitors are actually learning a lot as well. We try to sneak that in there when we can.” Norman said.
In response to concerns by animal rights groups that captive elephants should be moved to larger wildlife sanctuaries, Norman said, “We receive tremendous support for [our elephant program] from the community. When animal rights extremists say they don’t think elephants should be in zoos, the public says, ‘Don’t get rid of the elephants.’”
“We actually have one of the best elephant programs in the country.”