I moved here a few years ago from Atlanta, Georgia and started working at Dublin Zoo.
We’ve had six new calves here in the last three years. All those babies were born here so that makes them Irish! But really, Ireland has fantastic weather for Asian elephants because they like mild rainy days. Sometimes you will even see them going swimming more on rainy days.
I feel very fortunate that I work with the elephants. They’re very high-maintenance – but in a good way.
Elephants are extremely intelligent, they learn very quickly
Our philosophy for taking care of them is one of “protective contact”. What we do is we train them to do things, like present their feet to us, so we can give them pedicures. All of this is done in a protective context – so we don’t go in there with the elephants. We would ask the elephants to stick their leg out a porthole in the wall.
Basically there are two different styles of management: you go in or you stay out. When you go in there with them the approach is more based on negative reinforcement: you have a hook and you are more dominant. We don’t believe in that, so we go with the positive approach and we stay outside of their area. The protective approach means a more stress-free life for the herd but it also has benefits for us. Elephants are big animals and there’s always a risk that comes with that.