Preparing for an extra-large delivery

As one might imagine, a lot of preparation is needed to receive a nine-ton delivery or two. So when Seneca Park Zoo confirmed that Moki and Chana, two 9,000 pound African elephants, would be arriving in mid-April to join Genny C and Lilac, there was a great deal of planning to be done by the staff.

Photo by Susan Henkin
Photo by Susan Henkin

The Zoo has a large, modern facility capable of holding up to five elephants, but some of the holding areas still needed to be modified.  Moki and Chana will be managed in restricted contact, so special barriers were put in place to facilitate this management style.

Closed-circuit cameras have been installed so that staff can record Moki and Chana’s behavior and interactions with Genny C and Lilac around the clock. The behavior of all four female elephants will be closely studied by staff to determine how best to physically introduce them to each other.

The food supply for elephants will be doubled. That means deliveries of 1,200 pounds of grain, 1,200 pounds of fresh produce and 360 bales of hay each month.

Photo by Amelia Bifano
Photo by Amelia Bifano

The most exciting part of the preparation was to actually visit with Moki and Chana at their then-current home, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida. In March, Elephant Manager Lindsay Brinda and I each had the opportunity to spend a few days in Jacksonville to get to know the elephants and learn how the staff there cares for them. Jacksonville Zoo welcomed us and allowed us to work closely with them as they shared training techniques, husbandry methods and personality profiles of the elephants.

Moki and Chana have been at Jacksonville Zoo for nine years, and their keepers are understandably deeply attached to them. One of the most difficult aspects of being a zoo keeper is sometimes having to say goodbye to animals that you have dedicated yourself to caring for, protecting, loving and sometimes fighting for. The Jacksonville staff are true professionals, though, and shared every bit of knowledge they had to ensure that Moki and Chana could have the same high level of care when they arrived at Seneca Park Zoo.

On your next visit to the Zoo, be sure to see our newest and biggest additions, and think about what it took to get them here. Believe me, it was all worth it!

– Mary Ellen Sheets, Elephant Handler


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