November 1, 2020
Fall is here at Seneca Park Zoo which means Genny C’s birthday! This year she is turning 43. Genny C is one of the Zoo’s oldest and longest residents, arriving with Lilac as orphans in 1979 from the Kruger National Park. Over the years she has inspired staff and guests to further their passion for elephant conservation with her captivating personality.
Genny C loves time with her caregivers, and is almost always perfect for every training session. This makes her the optimal elephant for new keepers to start their elephant training experience. But don’t let her fool you! Once she knows you are comfortable, she will start to test you to see if you are really paying attention, and will show her stubborn side. Just like humans, elephants love to do the least amount of work for the highest reward!
The median life expectancy for female African elephants in human care is 38.1 years old. So at 43, Genny C needs a little extra TLC to ensure she is as comfortable as she can be. Originally, guests could tell her apart by her iconic long tusks, with the left one going the opposite way. But due to her arthritis in her front legs, we trimmed her tusks to reduce the weight these legs had to carry. This also allows her to lie down much easier! As you can imagine, it is extremely important for her to lie down at night to get weight off her joints. To further assist her with laying down, we made a hill in the barn which is much easier than flat ground for older elephants to use. Additionally, we installed a “tire rope” for her to grab onto if she needs extra help standing. Genny C is highly motivated to participate in her own health care, which helps us provide extra geriatric care including heat wraps, acupuncture and laser therapy (check out SPZ Facebook page for these videos and more)!
Out of the sixty different behaviors Genny C knows, her favorite activity is to hit a yoga ball with her trunk. One time she even hit it onto the roof of the barn! Hopefully next year guests will be able to try and catch it! She also is very enthusiastic about moving large logs around with a rope, showing off how strong she is. Genny C may not be our best painter, but she loves trying her best! The paint usually ends up on her keepers instead of the canvas.
While she often prefers spending time with her keepers, you can also find her sharing a hay net with Moki, or relaxing while sucking on her trunk. If you see her sucking on her trunk, you know she just enjoyed some of her favorite food or had some warm water from the hose. Another way to tell its Genny C is if she has hay on top of her head. This way no other elephant can steal it! She is the most vocal of our elephants and you can usually hear her purring or rumbling. You might even hear her blow raspberries or see her start wiggling when she wants her keepers’ attention.
Genny C’s adaptability amazes us all, especially as her geriatric care continues to evolve. She is a wonderful ambassador animal for guests to connect with to inspire them to conserve elephants in their natural range. Make sure to wish her a happy birthday during your next visit!
– Zoo Keeper Kat Kleinschmidt
*Banner photo by Wayne Smith