by Xinhua writers He
Xianfeng, Wei Mengjia, Zhang Chao BEIJING China (Xinhua) --
In a wildlife park in the southern outskirts of
Beijing, 12 juvenile African elephants, aged five to seven
years, have spent the past year getting used to life in China.
They are among a herd of 35 African elephants shipped from
Zimbabwe to China at the end of 2016.
"The elephants have adapted to life in Beijing.
"They are in good health and have adapted to life here," said
Wu Zhaozheng, general manager of Beijing Wildlife Park.
With the herd, the park now has the largest African elephant
population of any zoo in northern China.
"We hope to better protect and breed elephants, strengthen
exchanges and cooperation between domestic and foreign zoos, and
contribute to the China-Africa friendship tie and animal
protection," Wu said.
The park is the size of more than 330 standard soccer fields.
The African Elephant House covers more than 1,500 square
meters, with thousands of square meters of outdoor activity
areas surrounded by areas of large trees.
The morning starts with outdoor activities for the five male
and seven female African elephants.
While they are playing, the park staff clean their enclosure.
Bi Zhenchao, 35, head elephant keeper at the park, leads the
cleaning with his coworkers checking the elephant’s droppings
The daily defecation of each elephant can be up to 100
Bi used to work at a well-known computer company in
Zhongguancun, Beijing’s tech and innovation hub.
He quit the job in 2013 to follow his passion for animals.
He is now in charge of the juvenile elephants.
After the elephants return to their enclosure in late
afternoon, Bi begins to conduct behavioral training, which
includes how to open their mouths, lift their legs or lie down
on the ground at his command.
He also checks their feet.
The elephants know the command for their "foot massage."
They lift their feet and place them on the edge of the cage.
Bi first carefully cleans the soil from their feet with a
brush and then trims their nails.
"In the wild, elephants walk 15 to 20 kilometers a day.
"That much walking naturally wears down their nails.
"But at the zoo, their nails must be trimmed manually.
"Without this treatment, their weight will break the nails
and the cracks on their soles can also easily become infected,"
A balanced diet is crucial to the elephants’ growth.
A juvenile elephant eats some 100 pounds of corn stalks, 80
pounds of hay and leaves, and 30 pounds of fruit and vegetables
Bi said that the zoo has contracted more than 1.3 hectares of
nearby land to grow corn.
Since arriving in Beijing, the young elephants have grown
The largest is already 2 meters tall.
Their weight has increased by around 500 kilograms on
average, with the heaviest now close to 2 tonnes.
Bi understands the personalities of each elephant.
He hopes this herd will produce babies in the future.
The park manager said they are working to further expand the
elephants’ outdoor activity venue.