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.
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.
All 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Elephants are the world’s largest living land mammal (African elephants are slightly larger than Asian elephants)
- They weigh between 6,000 and 12,000 pounds
- They stand 6-12 feet at the shoulder
- Their skin is thin inside the ears but can be up to an inch thick on the back
- Even the thick skin is sensitive due to a rich supply of nerves
- Their large ears function as cooling devices
- The trunk contains about 150,000 muscles units and tendons
- The trunk can hold about two gallons of water
- Only some males have tusks
- Elephants have a large brain, weighing between 9 and 13 pounds, and are thought to be highly intelligent
- They have a great capacity to learn and much of their behavior is learned rather than instinctive
- Asian elephants are found in isolated pockets of India and Southeast Asia
- Elephants drink about 50 gallons of water per day
- They can eat 165-330 pounds of food per day, depending on their size
- 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.
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Until next time…
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