The Oakland Zoo in Northern California host an annual Celebrating Elephants day every May. The have a few elephant events usually: an evening lecture, a charitable dinner, and a daytime educational event at the zoo.
I haven't been able to attend the daytime event before, but this year was perfect timing for me to take my five year old nephew. He loves animals and going to the zoo, and now that he's got a brand new baby brother, it seems like an especially good time to take him out with his Auntie Jaya for some big boy adventures. Of course, this is all preparation for seeing how well we might travel together someday. I'm hoping I'll be able to take him to Kenya with me for a safari vacation after he graduates high school. That's my dream for us anyways. But as big goals sometimes start small, we packed up our gear consisting of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, cherries, water, camera, and sunblock for a short safari at the zoo.
Photo ©2009 Jaya Savannah.
I remember going to the Oakland Zoo as a child and one of the things that's nice about it is it's small size. We just had a couple of hours, but that's all you need there. It's perfect for small children in that they have fun without coming home completely exhausted.
Where did we head first? The elephants of course. Straight away! We were so excited to see them that I didn't focus my camera very well, but here's the first elephant we spotted.
Photo ©2009 Jaya Savannah.
A nice gentleman saw us taking pictures and offered to take on of me holding my nephew.
They had several educational booths up in the elephant area, with information about the bush meat crisis, animal cruelty in circuses, and other important conservation topics. One of the booths that most caught our attention was this lady who was demonstrating elephant pedicure tools.
Some of you might know that I'm a spa consultant in my business, so I found this whole idea of elephant pedicures very interesting! The tools that they use for elephant podiatry aren't all that different from the ones that we use in spas and salons. Do you see the big nail file that the lady is holding in her right hand? Scrub brushes and oil. Tools to get dirt and rocks out from their toes. Everything but nail polish!
As a burgeoning elephant conservationist, I already know the importance of proper foot care for captive elephants. In the wild, they would be walking long distances and on varied surfaces that would help keep their feet in top condition. Zoos need to pay close attention to elephant feet. [Here is a good article on elephant foot care.]
What my nephew was more interested in was their toes. We learned that elephants walk on their toes! We stared at the Oakland elephants' feet for signs of this grand nimbleness, but it was impossible to tell just by looking. [Here's an article on elephant foot anatomy.]
We were all about getting a closer look, and one of the fun interactive exhibits they created for Celebrating Elephants was a mock elephant research camp. What fun! My nephew and I could pretend we were scientists studying elephants in the wild.
This display table had a laminated card with a definition of what elephant researchers do:
"People who study elephants in the wild, help us understand elephant ecology and behavior. This research can help solve conflicts between people and elephants, suggesting ethical techniques for management of these complex, intelligent animals."
I would like to be a researcher. How does one get a job like that? Although if that doesn't fit my resume, I could definitely create a luxurious elephant spa! Please send any inquiries my way. Elephants need pampering, too.
For our short project at the zoo, my nephew and I were a team. A zoo docent gave my nephew the binoculars, while I was handed a clipboard and pencil to make observational notes.
The elephant we were observing was Osh, Oakland's male elephant. Our job was to note what Osh was doing every couple of minutes. Our report looked like this:
12:14pm Walking and eating
Elephants need to eat all the time!
The zoo also had a safari tent set up, so we could really pretend we were on safari. This might be my favorite photo of my nephew of all time:
In about 12 years, I want to recreate this photo of him--but on a real safari!
The Oakland Zoo has a widely acclaimed reputation for its elephant care. You can feel good about visiting them. The zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Rd, Oakland, CA 94605. Visit their website: Oakland Zoo. Say hello to Osh for us!