Tag Archives: Elephants

Sundowner with Nandi

Recently I attended another Nandi function at the Reid Park Zoo called “An African Sundowner with Nandi.”  A “Sundowner” in Africa is the custom of enjoying cocktails at the end of the day outside beneath a gorgeous sunset. The zoo provided cocktails — and hors d’oeuvres — while God delivered on the gorgeous sunset.

After the cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, we got to see close-up demonstrations of how the keepers work with the elephants using Mabu, their 12,000 pound bull elephant (and Nandi’s daddy) for one half of us and “Auntie” Lugile for the other half.

I made a beeline for the Mabu demo as soon as the announcement was made. We stood around one half of a little wood-railed enclosure in which the trainer stood, the other half of the enclosure behind her being the protective barrier the trainers use at Reid Park. Mabu waited on the other side of the barrier. (At most he was ten feet away from me, maybe less. I was in awe.)

The barrier itself is a good fifteen to twenty feet tall and made of heavy, rectangular metal bars that form open-air “windows” in a sort of grid pattern, except the rectangles differ in size. Many of them are actually little doors that can be opened so the trainer can do whatever needs done.

It’s treat based training, so our demonstrator had a big bucket of pellets that she used for the treats. She opened a lower window, held out her hand toward Mabu, he extended his trunk through the opening and, widening the open end of it, met her palm, kind of like an elephant’s version of a high-five. The opening of the end of his trunk, however, was bigger than her hand. I think that was  a “get ready” signal and response for she used it between each new task she asked him to do.

After the  introductory exchange, she gave  him some pellets, then another hand signal and he turned and placed his right front foot on the lower edge of the window, bent so that the heavy bottom pad faced her (and us) so she could brush it off and inspect it. When she signaled that she was done, he took his foot out of the window and turned back to collect some more treats. He did this with all four feet. (Feet and tusks, said the keepers, are the areas they have the most trouble with in keeping elephants in captivity. They check the feet every day)

Another signal prompted him to face her, lift his trunk high and in so doing, open his mouth so she could see into it  and make sure all was well. We got to see in it as well. 🙂

He is SO big, so awesome! I wish I had words for the experience of watching him, the impact of his size, the sense of keen intelligence there and of being observed by him in a way that’s different from other animals, and even from the elephants most of the time. You could also sense that he was having fun, and maybe even that he enjoyed being the center of attention.

After that we went to the main yard where the keepers brought out decorated cardboard boxes with “Happy Six Month Birthday, Nandi!” on them. There was also a birthday “cake”: two large flat, rounds of frozen fruit pieces and juice joined by three slender tree branches with bark on them (bark is a tasty treat for elephants). Once all was in place the keepers left the paddock and let the elephants in — or at least Mom, Nandi and her two brothers.

They literally ran in, all excited. Mom made short work of the cake, using her feet to hold down the bottom while pulling at the top with her trunk.  When that didn’t work, she just stepped on the bottom round and crushed it. Meanwhile the others were tearing the boxes apart and eating the hay inside. Well, except for Nandi. She tore her box open, ignored the hay, and continued to dismantle the box piece by piece, accompanied by all sorts of other gyrations that were just fun to watch.

I didn’t bring my camera because it was going to be low light, so I don’t have photos, but I do have this video that was made around Christmas. By then she had progressed quite a bit over the last video I posted where all she did was climb over the log and stand there. In this one she’s playing with the ball, dancing about, and doing funny things with her trunk. In short, it’s just too cute to pass up. (Also, at the very beginning of this, where Semba and Nandi are walking along with the trainer who’s outside the pen with a bucket of pellets, if you watch closely you can see the trainer give Semba a command to lift her trunk and she does so)

Catching up on Nandi

Nandi and pumpkin small

With the holiday season I haven’t had as much time as much time as I’d like to visit Nandi the baby elephant at Tucson’s Reid Park Zoo.

My last trip was in December on a  Thursday morning before grocery shopping. Got there just as the gates were opened. She was jumping and hopping, taunting her brother Sundzu frequently, doing all kinds of crazy things with her trunk:  flinging it about, putting hay in her mouth, only to spit is out, mimicking the adults as they flung dust or mud on their sides (though she doesn’t fling anything — I don’t think she has a clue what they’re doing…) It’s all fascinating and as always I loved it all.

This 30 second video was made back in October 2014. Nandi was just starting her thing for climbing over the logs in her enclosure. (Oh, and at the end, where she and another elephant are sharing caresses with their trunks — that’s Mabu, her dad, with her. I didn’t realize it the first few times I watched it. Until I noticed his tusk.)

Never Say “Last”: Nandi Loves Her Keepers


Yes, I know I said there would be no more Nandi videos. I was wrong. I was delusional. I have no idea how many more Nandi videos there will be. She’s too cute. She does too many adorable and fascinating things. So as long as the Reid Park Zookeepers keep on putting them out, and I keep on finding them, I suppose I will keep on  posting them.

They make me smile. And when they come to my own inbox I always have to watch them repeatedly.

So… I give you yet another video of Nandi. Every morning when her keepers arrive for work, she gets “super-excited” and RUNS full bore for the barn, spinning and sometimes literally bouncing off the walls. Here’s a sample of what her Keepers see every day:



Fun Morning at the Zoo

This morning I took my first “Artist’s Date” in a long time. I didn’t really plan to do it… kind of fell into it. Our local zoo, which is not far from our house, recently received a herd of 5 African Elephants from the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park. There’s one large male, Mabu, two females, Samba and Lungile and the sons of Samba — Punga and Sundzu. The zoo has transformed what was once a picnic area and soccer field into a large elephant habitat with a mud wallow, termite hills, swimming pool and wading stream. We’ve been watching the construction now for a couple of years as our daily walking path goes right by it. Finally, now, it’s finished.

The grand opening is to be tomorrow, but starting last Sunday, they have been holding a members-only preview. This morning I had a doctor’s appointment near the zoo, so decided that afterward I would go to Starbucks (also on the way to and from home) for a mocha and a scone and then head over to the zoo with my new camera.

It was awesome. The lion was out, and in the perfect position and lighting (see above). And the new Expedition Tanzania enclosure is wonderful and all the elephants were out.

Here’s Samba and Sundzu, the latter having breakfast.

Here’s Punga, Sundzu’s older brother. See his little tusks growing in? He seemed to like to throw hay on his back…

And finally Mabu, the giant male, who likes to eat branches and sticks and has already pushed over one of the trees and then broke it apart. That’s one of the “perks” of having an area with elephants in it if you’re some other kind of animal. They clear out paths and make the forests less congested…

Altogether I took 95 picture, just haven’t had time to go through and pick out the ones to keep and do the necessary editing and resizing. But what a fun morning, it’s been!