Franklin Zoo Temporarily Closes to Prepare for Jumbo Arrival
Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary in Tuakau, New Zealand, will be closed to the public for the first time in four years as preparations are completed for the arrival of Jumbo, the recently retired circus elephant and one of only two elephants in New Zealand.
This weekend is a crucial time for sanctuary staff and for Jumbo as she gets introduced to her new home, so the zoo will close to give everyone a chance to become acquainted.
Sanctuary director and veterinarian Dr Helen Schofield says Jumbo just needs a few days out of the public eye to get used to her new environment and new faces.
"Although Jumbo has lived a circus life and is used to activity and new towns, she's had consistency with a single handler and a trailer. Her new home is going to be very different. She'll now have a team of people caring for her and a large enclosure filled with things she may never have encountered before."
Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary has had international elephant specialist Peter Stroud assisting with the designing and building of Jumbo's new home.
Peter Stroud has been involved with elephants internationally and says with all his experience and understanding of animal exhibits and how they're put together, he has never seen one come together this fast.
"I doubt it's been done anywhere in the world. It's a great testimony to the people at Franklin Zoo who are taking on what really is a Jumbo-sized responsibility, and the support for Franklin Zoo from the local community," he says.
"On moving Jumbo to the zoo she will have more space than she has ever been accustomed to. There will be more activity and a different sort of interaction between her and her carers throughout each day, which will provide her with a much higher level of entertainment, fulfilment, and engagement.
"For example, Jumbo will have access to a wallow, to mud and sand to throw over herself, and poles and tree trunks to rub against which is important for skin care. Plus we'll be introducing loads of other experiences over the next little while which may be a bit scary for her to start with, but she'll be with people who will be able to teach her and encourage her to become confident in this new environment."
Keeping an elephant is a significant financial commitment. Dr Schofield says she set up the Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary Charitable Trust a year ago to assist in the care of exotic and native animals being retired or re-homed.
"Because we are predominantly a sanctuary, most of the animals living here are old or need special care or just don't fit in with other groups of animals. Until recently we had three lions who came from a circus. We cared for them until they passed away at around 22 years of age."
Dr Schofield says Jumbo will be assessed over the next few days before she can receive visitors.
"First of all Jumbo has to be established here at Franklin Zoo and she has to be settled. We have to meet her basic needs in terms of health and welfare. She's going to need to be looked at carefully in terms of her long term health and we really need to have a look at her psychological condition as well. But we're confident she'll be as keen to see zoo visitors as they are to see her in a few days."
Contributions to the Jumbo Fund in the Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary Charitable Trust can be made at the zoo or by visiting www.franklinzoo.co.nz for donation details.
The zoo will be closed Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th November re-opening Monday November 30th. The public will be able to see Jumbo in her new home from Saturday 5th December.