Asian Elephants at The Preserve

When I travel, I’m always looking for “experiences.” Even when I go wine tasting I’m always hoping for something extra, like a tour or a food pairing. When I learned about The Preserve and the opportunity to meet their magnificent Asian elephants, I knew I needed to check out this unique experience.

grounds of The Preserve with text overlay: Asian Elephants at The Preserve An elephant encounter in the Texas Hill Country

The Asian Elephant Experience at The Preserve

The Asian elephant experience is, first and foremost, meant to be educational. The elephants are ambassadors, raising awareness for the plight of this endangered species in the wild. The Preserve mission states, “Contact cultivates caring, which encourages conservation.”

The elephants are ambassadors, raising awareness for the plight of this endangered species in the wild. Click To Tweet

The facility gates open 30 minutes before the program start time. This gives you an opportunity to check out the elephant artwork in the gift shop.

I was a little disappointed at first at the size of the group – maybe around 50 people including quite a few children. It didn’t seem like it would be the intimate experience I was expecting, especially for the somewhat hefty price of $125. Because the program was so well organized, everyone got plenty of time up close, either individually or with their family group. The children were all well behaved and I loved seeing the looks on their faces.

What to Expect from the Experience

The elephant program begins right on time with everyone gathering under the shade pavilion. It was a chilly morning but there were several heaters scattered throughout the seating area.

After a short introduction to The Preserve, three Asian elephants came strolling towards the group, nose to tail. They turned towards the group and started doing some postures. The speaker explained how important this is to keep the elephants fit and healthy.

the three Asian elephants of The PreserveAll of the elephants are female: Becky, Kitty and Rosie. (Males become unpredictable as they mature.) Kitty has been with the family for 31 years. Becky and Rosie came together 27 years ago.

Elephant Bath

After the group presentation, we moved to the “shower” where we all helped give Rosie a bath. Her handler explained to us that all the leg lifting and other maneuvers are to help the handler bathe her. Getting a ladder to wash her back is not very practical so laying down solves that problem. Rosie seemed to thoroughly enjoy all the attention and scrubbing.

Asian elephant Rosie getting a bath

In another life, I had a lot of experience with exotic cats including lions, tigers, leopards, and cougars. Standing next to these majestic animals brought back the awe I always felt around the cats.

female scrubbing on Asian elephant Rosie
female scrubbing elephant

Asian elephant Rosie getting rinsed after a bath
Asian elephant Rosie standing on front feet getting rinsed off after a bath

Elephant Foot Care

While Rosie’s handler gave her a good rinse and Rosie stood in the sun for a while to dry, we moved on to learning about elephant foot care with Becky and Kitty.

filing the toenails of an Asian elephant
model of elephant foot
feeling the calloused bottom of an elephant's foot

The elephant’s toenails are hard like a horse’s hoof and need regular trimming and filing. The bottom of the foot is a hard callous. Inside the foot, the bones are supported and cushioned by a thick fibrous pad. We got to feel the bottom of the foot which gives under pressure due to the pad.

woman with three Asian elephants at The Preserve

Photo Opportunities

Everyone gets to take a photo with all three elephants in their family group. Don’t worry if you are traveling solo like me. There are plenty of helpers to take photos!

I rarely spend a lot of money in the gift shop of an attraction but I was really drawn to the elephant artwork. If you purchased artwork, you got a hug from your Asian elephant artist. I purchased a footprint canvass created by Rosie and a t-shirt painted by Becky.

I rarely spend a lot of money in the gift shop of an attraction but I was really drawn to the elephant artwork. Click To Tweet

During the program, the elephants showed us how they do the “kiss” paintings and paint the t-shirts. Each art piece comes with a card that gives you information about the elephant artist.

woman with elephant and foot artwork
woman with elephant and painted t-shirt

The Reward

Finally, we got to watch the elephants eat their treats. They each went for something different for starters. They popped whole bunches of bananas and whole pineapples into their enormous mouths. When they were finished, they “handed” their empty dishes to the handlers.

two Asian elephants eating at The Preserve

A Few More Experience Details

Booking the elephant experience online is super easy. You can see in real time what dates are available – generally Friday, Saturday and Sunday with some extra days around the holidays.

  • Currently, programs are at 11am and 2pm.
  • As previously mentioned, the fee is $125 per person.
  • Children 3 and under are free.
  • There is minimal walking and no strenuous activity.
  • Wheelchairs and walkers are welcome.
  • Pets are not allowed and no shaded parking is available.
  • The experience goes on rain or shine except in the case of severe weather.

Future Plans

Three giraffes have already made The Preserve their new home. There are plans to bring in other large mammals as well as exotic birds.

Human Nature and Supporting Worthy Causes

Should animals “perform” for humans? The outcry of animal right’s activists is that they should not. But, let me ask you this. If you had the choice of supporting a sanctuary where you never saw the animals or a place like The Preserve where you could see and even touch the animals you were supporting, which would you choose? Purists might say the former but I think most humans want to make a connection. When you make a connection, you are more likely to care and less likely to turn away. You can support The Preserve and their conservation efforts through their nonprofit Friends of The Preserve.

Some Facts about Asian Elephants

  1. Elephants are the world’s largest living land mammal (African elephants are slightly larger than Asian elephants)
  2. They weigh between 6,000 and 12,000 pounds
  3. They stand 6-12 feet at the shoulder
  4. Their skin is thin inside the ears but can be up to an inch thick on the back
  5. Even the thick skin is sensitive due to a rich supply of nerves
  6. Their large ears function as cooling devices
  7. The trunk contains about 150,000 muscles units and tendons
  8. The trunk can hold about two gallons of water
  9. Only some males have tusks
  10. Elephants have a large brain, weighing between 9 and 13 pounds, and are thought to be highly intelligent
  11. They have a great capacity to learn and much of their behavior is learned rather than instinctive
  12. Asian elephants are found in isolated pockets of India and Southeast Asia
  13. Elephants drink about 50 gallons of water per day
  14. They can eat 165-330 pounds of food per day, depending on their size
  15. The median lifespan for a female Asian elephant is estimated at 47 years but there isn’t enough consistent data for certainty

My Final Thoughts on seeing Asian Elephants at The Preserve

While doing research for this post about the Asian elephants at The Preserve, I came across some less than positive information about the history of the people and organization behind The Preserve. It made me a little sad because this was such a wonderful, uplifting experience for me. Some of the information came from the twisted minds of PETA which I totally ignore. Other information is from 2005 and wasn’t even made public until 2011. Why would they wait six years? I can only hope that the current and future animal residents do receive the world-class care The Preserve claims they are getting.

In spite of any past negativity, I highly recommend seeing the Asian elephants at The Preserve. While I was there, the elephants seemed happy and eager to show off their natural as well as some learned behaviors.

Related posts:

Exotic Resort Zoo — Wildlife Safari Experience in Johnson City, Texas

Animal Enrichment at the Sacramento Zoo

Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas

 

man filing an elephants toenails with text overlay: Asian Elephants at The Preserve An elephant encounter in the Texas Hill Country
a woman standing with two Asian elephants with text overlay: Asian Elephants at The Preserve An elephant encounter in the Texas Hill Country
an Asian elephant getting hosed off after a bath with text overlay: Asian Elephants at The Preserve An elephant encounter in the Texas Hill Country

Until next time…


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