Anonymous asked: I've just applied for my firs paidt zoo keeping job - a trainee elephant keeper! I'm really excited and I've used your resources on job interview questions to help prepare me, but I was wondering if you've ever worked with elephants and have some insights into what it will be like? I have only worked with Giant Pandas before.
I have never worked with elephants, but I know it’s highly specialized, and depending on the facility it can be a pretty different style of zookeeping from everything else.
Especially in AZA facilities, elephant programs tend to be extremely training-focused. I also think it’s fair to assume that the physical labor side of the job will be very intense.
Any elephant keepers want to reblog & chime in?
I am not an elephant keeper (though i do plan on trying my look with them within a year or so), however, to the anon, just know there is a lot of controversy surrounding the captivity of elephants. Well that goes for almost all animals, but elephants are a big one. It may be overwhelming sometimes as i’ve be told. Especially when it comes to the way the animals are trained. If they use protected contact and positive reinforcement, free contact and bull hook as an aid in training with a mix of positive reinforcement (usually not harming the animal), or a bull hook used to scare the animals (using physical aggression).
But I hope the anon gets it! Elephants are fascinating, and their is probably soooo much they will be exposed to! :P
Good points, thanks! Gonna add a couple things.
1. In AZA zoos, free contact is phasing out. All AZA institutions either already are protected contact with their elephants, or are moving in that direction. If you’re non-AZA, your mileage may vary. Which leads to the next point —
2. Yes, there is a lot of controversy regarding elephants in captivity, and I’m not gonna touch that right now, except to emphasize that when people think of the vague concept of “captive elephants,” what comes to mind is usually a circus or some sort of performance situation. I can’t speak to what those animals’ lives are like because I simply don’t know, but unfortunately there are some horror stories floating around that leave a bad taste in people’s mouths (for good reason). But in a facility that has the resources to give their elephants a good quality of life (this includes space, facilities, veterinary care, a solid training program, and even professional development for the keeper staff), these animals are extremely well cared for by knowledgeable and dedicated people who love them. And considering that both Asian and African elephants are in serious trouble in the wild, due to land use conflicts and poaching (mostly driven by the ivory trade), well… if you’ve read through this blog at all, then you know how I feel about the importance of captive populations at the present time.
96Elephants is a campaign led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (a.k.a. the Bronx Zoo) to save elephants by ending the ivory trade.
Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives is an incredible book by Thomas French, a journalist who spent several years writing about Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FL. The book focuses a lot on the controversy surrounding captive elephants. I highly recommend it to anyone who has any emotional investment in zoos, positive or negative, and I especially recommend it to anyone who wants to dig deeper into the elephant issue.