Like many parts of the country, middle Tennessee received a blanket of snow at the end of the third week of January. Winters here are pretty mild and snow is rare, so this was a special occasion. During the winter months, the elephants normally stay inside their heated barns and then choose to exit the barn during warmer daytime hours. On this particular morning, a snowy habitat awaited.
According to Elephant Husbandry Director, Stephanie DeYoung, African elephant Hadari seemed eager to inspect the wintry addition to the Africa Habitat. "Hadari quickly walked out of the barn, and we thought she was going to go all the way down into the valley that runs through the center of the habitat," she says. "Well, she walked about 100 yards and then decided to turn around. She foraged and explored in the area near the barn before deciding to come in."
African elephant Sukari (pictured at left) went out readily, but she didn't seem to share Hadari's interest in the snowfall.
Upon their return the warm barn, the African elephants found enrichment items in the form of donated Christmas trees awaiting them in their stalls.
Rosie (the oldest of the three elephants retired from the Nashville Zoo last year) spent the day inside the Africa Barn, making use of the various enrichment items provided by Caregivers (including the donated Christmas trees seen above). As shared in a previous EleNote, Rosie came to The Sanctuary with chronic foot and joint conditions that limit her mobility. Conditions such as these are sadly very common in elephants who have spent their lives in captivity. The Sanctuary's Care and Veterinary Staff are continually assessing Rosie's issues and creating care plans to accommodate them.
Flora wanted nothing to do with the snow. According to Stephanie, Flora "stood at the doorway and just looked at the snowflakes for a few minutes before going back to eating her hay."
At the Quarantine Barn and Habitat - to no one's surprise - Minnie was quick to leave the barn and explore the snow-covered meadows. Ronnie followed close behind. Debbie appeared more hesitant, but soon decided to join her friends in the habitat, completing the trio. Billie split her time between wandering in her "Hideout" area and interacting with enrichment devices inside.
The five elephants at the Asia Barn and Habitat seemed content to stay inside in the heat…for the most part. Caregiver Nicole shares more:
"Winkie came out first. She walked through the rubber flaps headed out into the habitat. Her constant companion over the last 15 years, Sissy, chose not to follow. Winkie only made it about 10 yards before deciding to turn around. She walked back inside, choosing to spend the day with Sissy instead."
On the following day the sun was out…and so were the elephants.
The snow was all gone in a couple of days and it was business as usual at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.