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Nov 16, 2010

Choices Choices

Choices Choices from Woburn Safari Park

At Woburn Safari Park we are consistently questioning ourselves in all areas of animal management; is this it? Is this good enough? Or is there something else we can do?

When our new elephant house was completed it incorporated many different and challenging choices. For example various feeding areas high and low; a variety of pens – some enclosed some more 'open plan' and also different surfaces on the walls on which they could rub against. However, this project shows where we went one step further in trying to achieve the highest standard of husbandry and welfare within our herd 

Originally the substrate in the house consisted of mainly sand floors, along with two rubber-floor pens. Sand had been tried and tested elsewhere and so far the outcomes were excellent.

However this is where we came up against our first obstacle - the sand that we had used was natural sand that lay underneath much of the land on Woburn’s estate. A 'great' natural source and also inexpensive. It did however soon become apparent that it was too fine, and when the elephants urinated on it the urine ran across the surface instead of draining through it.

Over time the sand turned solid, not too dissimilar to concrete, and there was very little give in the surface. This was coupled with the fact that whenever the elephants moved over it the dust produced was terrible and could not have been good for their health. Something had to be changed; the sand had to go and be replaced by a much coarser alternative. This is where we asked ourselves three questions, 

1. Sand- is that it? No, we need a type of sand that drains well and is easier to excavate. 
2. Is this good enough? Again no, it needs to provide the opportunity for the elephants to exhibit natural behaviours and some how contribute to their welfare. 
3. Is there anything else? Yes, bark. Therefore, not only did we incorporate another substrate into our elephant husbandry we also gave our elephants another choice within their house. They didn't just have to make do with one substrate• they could decide which one they lay on, dug up, dust-bathed in, rolled in and so on.

Developed by:  Woburn Safari Park

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