Pachyderms for Posterity

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Zoo InternQuest is a career exploration program for high school students.  For more information see the Zoo InternQuest blogs.  For more photos see the Zoo InternQuest Photo Journal. 

Tembo displays her "pearly" whites.

For those of us who aren’t Zoo Keepers, feeding an elephant is a once in a lifetime experience.  Tembo, the Zoo’s only African elephant, certainly didn’t mind me placing a handful of hay pellets in her trunk.  Her coarse hair brushed past my hand as she raised her trunk to her mouth, only to return a second later for more.  As an elephant lover, this opportunity was a dream come true.

Unfortunately, such an occurrence will no doubt become even more uncommon as elephant populations consistently decrease.  Human encroachment is the primary factor.  Naturally, such massive animals require enormous amounts of food and water, and therefore roam vast tracts of land across the savannas and forests of Africa and Asia.  Humans and elephants compete for resources, leading, inevitably, to increased conflict.

There is, of course, intensive research going into saving the elephants.  The Zoo is teamed with Elephants Without Borders (EWB) in attempt to protect migration routes and find solutions to human-elephant conflicts.  The work the Zoo does closer to home, however, is equally important.  Elephant Odyssey was designed not only for the elephants, but also to educate visitors.  Awareness is a vital aspect of the conservation effort; it takes more than a small group to save a species.  By informing people of these magnificent animals and their plight, the Zoo can inspire people to do something.  I know that seeing the sparkle in Tembo’s eyes only deepened my conviction to keep her species on this planet.  Whether it’s donating funds or simply spreading the word, we can change the elephants’ fate.  After all, is it not said that knowledge is power?

Taylor, Conservation Team