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At the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., six gargantuan female elephants leisurely graze the grassy pathways within the Elephant Trails exhibit.

Their Asian ancestry — they originate from the deep forests of Thailand, Vietnam and, for these particular captive elephants, Sri Lanka — has marked them as intelligent as, yet substantially smaller than the regal African giants. Consuming a well-balanced diet composed of vitamins, minerals and proteins is vital to their physical makeup, progress and well-being.

Lead caretaker Marie Galloway and her team of professionals perform a strict technique of catering to the National Zoo elephants’ diets each morning and afternoon.


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“Elephants eat a lot of food,” said Galloway. “They eat hay for a large portion of their diet and that’s free-fed.”

“We prepare each diet specifically for each individual elephant. Their diets are tailored to their individual needs,” she said.

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An Asian female elephant eats an average of 135 pounds of food each day at the zoo. Her caretakers cut a variety of fruits and vegetables into small proportions, encouraging the elephants to execute training exercises.

They mostly eat hay and what Galloway referred to as “elephant chow.” Warm grains are also provided in the winter and cooled in the summer for the grand giants.

Galloway confidently addresses the elephant in the room, proving that even in captivity, the Asian elephants under her watchful eye are in great physical, mental and emotional condition.

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