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Jumbo the elephant enjoying her retirement at Franklin Zoo

News from the Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary - 21/05/2010

Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary in Tuakau has been the home for Jumbo the retired circus elephant for the past six months.

Sanctuary director and veterinarian Dr Helen Schofield says Jumbo has settled in to her life at the Sanctuary well and has developed close and affectionate relationships with her team of keepers.

"Jumbo is responding well to her operant conditioning and protected care management. The program allows keepers to manage her through a protected wall, and is based solely on positive feedback. She is responding well by presenting feet for care, all parts of her body for washing, rub downs and other health care procedures.

"Our dream for Jumbo is to get her in a situation where she can have other African elephants for company; most elephant sanctuaries around the world manage their elephants using these procedures so she will understand them if and when it comes time to move.

"Our program is designed to 'future proof' Jumbo by giving her skills so that if it becomes possible to move her to a social situation in the future she will be able to cope well. Not only has she learnt to work with more than one keeper, she has also developed more physical fitness and confidence, she has perfected her mud wallowing and sand bathing techniques, not to mention her ability to knock down pretend trees (telegraph poles). All these activities will help her in the future."

Work has started on Jumbo's winter barn, with plans including an indoor area that will provide under cover protection for when the weather gets cold, heaters for those frosty mornings, warm water for wash downs and areas for training and indoor activities. Included in the design is an area to place her travel crate. It will become part of the entry chute, so if and when the time comes she will be very familiar with it. Part of the area will be a deep sand pit, allowing for soft footing and a comfortable place to lie down.

"The Franklin community has been hugely helpful in caring for Jumbo, mostly by delivering wonderful browse (branches and trees) for her to eat. Our visitors are overjoyed to see her as she gains more confidence moving around her parkland enclosure or watching her play and sand bathing," says Schofield.

"It is a tremendous privilege to take care of Jumbo, I feel personally humbled and flattered by the big ear flapping purrs she gives me as a greeting when I return to see her from other activities in the zoo. She is so affectionate and responsive. It will be a joyful day to see her develop friends of the elephant kind in the future. This is a way off and the earliest we could get her with others would be 12 months away."

Jumbo Retires at Franklin Zoo Jumbo Retires at Franklin Zoo - Play time
Jumbo Retires at Franklin Zoo Jumbo Retires at Franklin Zoo
Jumbo Retires at Franklin Zoo Jumbo Retires at Franklin Zoo
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Giving donations
Keeping an elephant is a significant financial commitment. Dr Schofield says she set up the Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary Charitable Trust in November 2008 to assist in the care of exotic and native animals being retired or re-homed. The Sanctuary successfully purchased and retired the last circus lions in New Zealand in 2006, the Sanctuary is also home to over 300 birds and animals including Zebra, Bobcats, and Lemurs, Capuchin monkeys, Kea and many others. Donations are very much needed and can be made at the Zoo or on the website

Times to visit
The Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary is open every day (including Christmas and New Years Day) 9am to 5 pm. There are interactive keeper talks each day, Monkeying Around talk at 11am and Wild Encounters at 2pm.

A message for families
Do be sure to include a visit to the Franklin Zoo in your family's weekend or holiday activities. Our website shows where we are and how to get here.

Junior Zoo Cub and Junior Zoo Keeper courses

Our Junior Zoo Cub and Junior Zoo Keeper courses give young people a chance to experience our exotic and indigenous wildlife up close and personal, whilst learning to provide for the animals and birds physical and behavioral needs in captivity.

The classes are facilitated by a registered teacher and / or our Zoo Veterinarian. They are targeted towards fun, whilst building an understanding of animal needs in the wild and in captivity, and introducing the sciences of zoology, animal behaviour and veterinary Science.

Courses are run each school holidays, and through term time in the weekends. We have students who have gone on to study Zoology, Veterinary Medicine and become Zoo Keepers.

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