Friday, September 27, 2013

Who doesn't smile when they see an elephant?

                               And the next question is:  how can we make elephants smile back? 

  Asha and Anak, two Asian female elephants, happily
apply their new mud packs to enhance their beauty

Well, it’s a funny story, one between a caring zoo and a potter in the Irish countryside.  Less than a handful of zoos around the world use a happy-time feel-good technique for giving joy to zoo bound elephants and that technique is giving them loads of mud to play with.  Picking up the idea through zoo conferences in the US, one of the Dublin Zoo elephant keepers put two and two together and decided to contact Irish potter Nick Mosse.  Nick uses the best sort of mud for elephants called slip (or engobe).  He makes his own in large quantities to cover his hand thrown ware, so  his production was  large enough even for elephants, and he was delighted to be asked to help.
  Anak waves a greeting of delight---“Look how great this is!”

The idea was to create a ‘mud bog’ for elephants, full of slippy sticky mud to slurp and toss and trumpet all over the place and each other.  The Zoo created a large hole and Nick obliged by mixing up and shipping 5000 litres of liquid clay up to the zoo in Dublin, where it was dumped into the hole in the elephant enclosure.

So here comes the smiley joy bit:  ever since the cuddle puddles were installed, all the elephants have been having a wonderful time.  Just take a look at these pictures, or better still, pay a visit to the Dublin Zoo.  It’s all wonderful!

The group inspects the new facility,
with disbelieving friend nearby.
Down she goes.

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