Monday, April 28, 2014

Behind The Scenes: The Elephant Insider Tour

This past month, The BGT Buzz was able to participate in Busch Gardens' newly returned Elephant Insider Tour! The tour costs $29 per person and the tour takes about an hour to complete. Throughout the duration of the tour, you'll find out firsthand how Busch Gardens' Pachyderm team cares for such large animals! Some highlights of our tour included touching & feeding Rosie the elephant as well as feeding the entire herd on the main habitat! If you're interested in learning more about this awesome tour, check out our blog post below.



Our day started bright and early at the Serengeti Outpost. There, we met up with our escort, James. James shuttled us to the Pachyderm Palace (AKA: Elephant House) via golf cart, and that's where we met our tour guide, Katie. Katie's been working with elephants for over 15 years and enjoys studying their behavioral patterns. Before entering the main compound, we were reminded that no pictures were aloud to be taken until the end of the tour, and that we were always to remain behind the yellow safety lines unless we were with a trainer. Upon entering the main building, we dropped into the kitchen where a few keepers were preparing the elephants' breakfast. Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Bananas, and Melons are just a few of the fruits and veggies the elephants receive each day. Our next stop was the elephants' "bedrooms". Katie explained that each elephant has its own room inside the main facility that can be accessed at any time of the day. The Pachyderm team is all about the comfort and enjoyment of the elephants meaning that they let the herd roam freely at all times, even after hours when the park is closed! As we moved down the row of bedrooms, we met Rosie and had the opportunity to feed her breakfast! As there were only two of us on the tour, the experience was truly unique as the trainers didn't rush us throughout the up close encounters. Katie mentioned that Rosie enjoys eye contact and that it's her signature behavior. Being inches away from a presence that extraordinary was truly awesome!
 
 
Shortly after, we moved outside to the outdoor facility. This is where the majority of the husbandry duties are taken care of. We first observed some of the trainers giving Rosie her daily check up. This is where the trainers examine the elephants and check for anything that may be a potential hazard to their health. The trainers then moved Rosie to a special area because it was time for her "Pedicure". Katie explained to us that elephants have trouble walking unless their nails are filed down. The procedure is done by using a tool similar to those used when maintaining horses hooves in equestrian sports. After the nail is at the proper length, it's polished off using an electric sander. After Rosie received her pedicure, she moved onto the scale so the team could check her weight. Rosie gained 4 pounds from the previous day meaning she would be receiving slightly less food so her weight can be properly maintained. After the trainers' morning routine was complete, they moved us onto the catwalk of the main habitat so we could feed the rest of the herd breakfast!

Katie Educating Guests On Elephant Interaction!
 
At this point of the tour, photography was permitted meaning we were able to get some up close shots of the entire herd! Katie gave us a few buckets worth of food and called the elephants over for breakfast. Each elephant got its turn receiving some food while I got rewarded by a grunt or gesture from the elephant.



After breakfast was served, Katie returned us to the main compound so we could say goodbye to the rest of the team. We thanked the team and had a brief chat where we brought up the topic of Spike the male elephant. The team told us Spike is doing great in his own facility on the other side of the park. The team is still uncertain when they'll introduce Spike to the rest of the herd, but they told us they'll keep us informed!
 
 
 
 
This was truly a one of a kind tour that all visitors to the park should experience. Even if you're only visiting for a day, book this tour! $29 is a bargain for the type of experience this tour provides. If you're interested in taking the tour, check out Busch Gardens' website more information.



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