After Her Majesty The Queen gave the Whipsnade Zoo Centre for Elephant Care the royal seal of approval, the hardworking keepers begin their conservation mission.
Last Tuesday, The Queen, along with The Duke of Edinburgh visited the centre to declare the animals’ new home officially open, as nine Asian elephants moved in.
Highlighting Whipsnade Zoo’s elephant-expertise, the centre provides more than 700 sq m of indoor space, and is fitted out with a host of elephant-friendly features, including one metre-deep soft sand flooring to provide maximum comfort and dimming lights to mimic night-time.
But as the zoo keepers know, the new build has a more important significance.
A Whipsnade Zoo spokesman said: “Asian elephants are classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, and due to habitat loss, human conflict and poaching their wild populations are in decline.
“The species are also listed on the Zoological Society of London’s EDGE, Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered list, meaning there is a particularly urgent need for conservation action.
“ZSL is working in Thailand – a major stronghold for Asian elephants – to reduce human-wildlife conflict and ensure the peaceful coexistence of elephants and humans.”
Back in Bedfordshire, the zoo’s £2m barn has a host of special features for their herd, including utomated-feeding systems, having been custom-designed by award-winning architects with instruction from an elephant expert.
Asian elephants can reach up to six metres in length and weigh almost five tonnes.
The Centre for Elephant Care is now open to the public.