A critically important mission of Seneca Park Zoo and all zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is to help conserve wildlife and wild places. One of the ways we accomplish this is through inspirational experiences at the Zoo. We know that a visit to a zoo or aquarium does, indeed, motivate people to be more aware of environmental issues and to be more likely to take action to support conservation efforts. We see this reflected in the amount of money our guests voluntarily contribute to support our conservation partners globally.
African elephants are a species we have chosen to support. They are being killed for their ivory at the rate of 96 a day, or 35,000 a year. At this rate, they will be extinct in 10 years; African elephants desperately need help! Seneca Park Zoo is providing a small part of that help. By maintaining elephants in our care according to the very strict standards of AZA accreditation, our animals function very capably as ambassadors of their relatives still fighting for survival in their natural range, which has been dramatically reduced. In some situations, it may be literally bounded by fences or virtually bounded by the expansion of human land development.
Research has shown that elephants in human care have an average lifespan that is essentially the same as their counterparts living in Africa—and they certainly don’t face the same risks of being shot by automatic weapons and having their tusks cut off with a chain saw. Elephant Awareness Day is an effort by the dedicated, passionate and caring staff at the Zoo to elevate the knowledge of the dire plight these magnificent animals face on a daily basis and to encourage everyone to join us in saving them.
Photo submitted by Jessica Barone (Chana left, Moki right)
In preparation for Elephant Awareness Day this Saturday, we took your elephant questions on social media; below, elephant handlers Jenna, Sue and Lindsay answer some of them. Join us at the Zoo from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 19 to learn more about what you can do to help save elephants from extinction, enjoy enrichment demonstrations and participate in fun activities.
–Larry Sorel, Seneca Park Zoo Director
How do you tell the difference between the four elephants?
Each elephant has a few distinct characteristics that you can look for to tell them apart. Genny C stands the tallest over the other three elephants. She has the longest tusks with the left tusk pointing downwards instead of straight out. Lilac is the smallest and shortest of the bunch. She also has a hole in her left ear. Moki has very large ears that fold over on the top of her head and a much shorter tail than the others. Her tail has very little hair on the end of it. And lastly, Chana has a very narrow face. Her tusks have grooves in them. She has a very long tail with a lot of hair on the end of it.
Why do you like working with the elephants?
I enjoy working with the elephants for many reasons. My favorite reason would probably be because of their intelligence and ability to learn and problem solve. Because of their distinct personalities, they all approach situations and work through them differently. It is very exciting and sometimes humorous to watch them in action. Being able to be a part of their lives day to day, observing these kinds of behaviors, gives me a huge appreciation for the species as a whole. It also reminds me how grateful we should be that these creatures get to be at Seneca Park Zoo!
Do Moki, Chana, Genny C and Lilac have distinct personalities?
Yes! Genny C is a very animated elephant. She will shake her head or body to get her handlers attention. She can be quite goofy. She loves her training sessions and food. She always has something to say, so you can usually hear her making some sort of noise. Lilac is an energetic elephant that loves to play. She enjoys stirring the other elephants up to get them to play with her and she really enjoys touching her handlers with her trunk. Moki is a thinker and a problem-solver during training session. She thrives on routine and enjoys swimming in the pool; sometimes she brings a tire in the pool with her. Chana likes watching the world go by. She is a sweet and laid-back elephant who is never in a rush. She does like to let out trumpets when greeting the other elephants.
How do the elephants sleep?
Elephants can sleep standing up or lying down. You can see all four of the elephants napping at some point during the day. They will have their trunks resting on the ground and their eyes closed. Elephants do need to lay down to sleep to take that enormous amount of weight off their legs. They usually lie down at night.
How do elephants communicate?
Elephants communicate through hearing, smells, touch and body posturing. They can also detect in their feet the vibrations from other elephants nearby. Elephants communicate with a variety of sounds, some that we cannot hear. If you stand outside the elephant exhibit, you can see how much the elephants touch each other with their trunks. With four elephants, the exhibit is always active. If you watch each elephant, you can see its unique body language. For example, after we finish a training session and return an elephant to the yard, there is usually a greeting by the other elephants. One may raise their head or flare their ears, and there is always a rumble with the greeting.
Do the elephants have a favorite food?
The elephants’ favorite foods are watermelons, pumpkins and bagels!
How much do the elephants weigh?
The elephants are weighed monthly. At their most recent weighing, Genny C weighed 9,038 pounds, Lilac weighed 7,612 pounds, Moki weighed 8,752 pounds and Chana weighed 9,042 pounds.
My 5 year old asks, “Why do you have to be aware of elephants?”
On Elephant Awareness Day we will show you how amazing our four elephants are. You will see them get baths, enrichment, participate in training sessions, paint, and even have a watermelon eating race! We will also show you how dedicated our zoo keepers are to giving Genny C, Lilac, Moki and Chana the highest level of care. We hope that when you leave, you will have a greater appreciation for all elephants. The world’s elephants are in trouble and they need our help. We need to stop the senseless poaching and the demand for ivory. Elephants are running out of time. I can’t imagine living in a world where my children never got to see elephants and appreciate how truly special they are.