November 18, 2011
Flora and Tange approaching the barn for a feeding
In Africa -
Frost blanketed the ground some mornings last week, and the chill sets in much earlier in the afternoon on these fall days. Tange and Flora usually eat breakfast inside the barn, but when the sun is out and there is no wind, they seem anxious to get outside and spend as much time in the warmth of the day as possible. While they're inside eating, Caregivers Angela and Maddie clean up the yard, while at the same time distributing hay. This encourages them to move around and start getting warmed up in the mornings. If you watch, they seem to use their trunks to follow exactly where the 4 wheeler has driven, and they never miss any little bit of the hay Caregivers put out for them.
Sparse grazing is available this time of year, so Tange and Flora receive additional hay to supplement their diet. They get hay in the mornings, at mid-day, at afternoon feeding, and of course at the night feeding when Caregivers come to "tuck them in" at 10pm. In between feedings, they can almost always be seen foraging for browse along the tree lines, and grazing on what is left of the grasses growing around their habitat.
While both African and Asian elephants spend 50-75% of their day eating, in the wild African elephants tend to consume more browse than Asian elephants do. According to Caregiver Angela's observations, there is a notable difference in the way Africans and Asians consume their hay as well. Asians prefer scooping and swiping the hay with their trunks, whereas the Africans tend to grab and stuff. A buffet of browse is offered to the Africans in the evenings – branches of pine, oak, hickory, maple, and poplar are favorites. Never ones to waste, Tange and Flora make use of just about everything - even when Caregivers leave several good sized branches for each of them to browse on at the night feeding, the next morning there are just bits and pieces left over to pick up.
When Angela and Maddie put out the African's diet, hay, and browse at the night feeding, Tange tends to bypass everything else and goes straight for the hickory – it's her absolute favorite. Tange will also grab a large piece of hickory in the middle and pull it through into her stall, snapping it impressively. Flora, on the other hand, eats her diet and hay slowly and deliberately, then moves on to her browse when she has finished. No matter how the Africans or Asians actually eat their food, the amount they consume is impressive – a larger elephant may eat up to 150 lbs per day!