My Elephant Odyssey

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Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs, and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

So far, exploring the Conrad Prebys Elephant Care Center has been one of the best experiences I’ve had at the San Diego Zoo. Lead Elephant Keeper, Ron Ringer, led us through the Center, stopping at numerous locations to tell us about the elephants living there. Steve Herbert, another Lead Elephant Keeper, discussed the elephants’ behavior while demonstrating how to feed them properly. Whether I was observing the elephants from the catwalk or learning about their diets in the kitchen, Mr. Ringer has made the life of an elephant more clear to me.

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We toured the Elephant Care Center at the San Diego Zoo where zookeepers monitor the elephants, record their observations, and have meetings regarding elephant care. The center was made possible because of the support given to the Zoo by Conrad Prebys.

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Elephants at the San Diego Zoo eat an average of 125 pounds of food daily, which is made up almost entirely of hay. An elephant’s diet is so large that it takes three to five people to provide their food throughout the day.


Mr. Ringer demonstrates how zookeepers use whiteboards to keep track of information, such as weight, for each elephant. Elephants at the Zoo are usually weighed once per month.


Mr. Ringer described elephants as being kind of like giant toddlers. If you left a toddler with a pile of food, they would eat it all in a matter of minutes. The same applies to elephants. To prevent this, zookeepers put the elephants’ hay inside food puzzles so they can eat feed moderately throughout the day.

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When most people hear the term catwalk, they think of models and fashion shows. At the San Diego Zoo, the catwalk is the balcony overlooking the elephant exhibit. Zookeepers like Mr. Ringer use the catwalk to observe the elephants below them.

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Ron Ringer is a Lead Elephant Keeper at the San Diego Zoo and has been working with elephants for the past 30 years. He is a member of the Elephant Managers Association and often interacts with the public in order to inform people about elephants and their exhibit at the Zoo, as well as important conservation measures prevent their extinction in the wild.


Feeding the elephants at the Zoo is a normal activity for Lead Elephant Keeper Steve Hebert. During our visit, he took the time to show us the proper way to feed them. Here he is giving Devi, one of the Asian elephants, a piece of lettuce.


Mr. Ringer explained that many elephants in the wild are poached for their tusks. Almost 40,000 elephants per year are killed because of the ivory trade and human conflicts. One way we can help prevent this from happening is to pledge to never purchase items that contain ivory.

Victoria, Photo Team
Week Five, Winter Season 2013