At the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., eight female Asian elephants graze the grasslands of the Elephant Trails exhibit. Marie Galloway is their lead keeper and tends to their every need.
Unlike their wild cousins, zoo elephants play a vital role in sustaining their lineage.
Through their presence at local zoos, Galloway strongly believes that a few of the factors below contribute to an elephant’s health and overall well-being:
1. Teaching people to care about the world’s elephants
Locals and tourists frequently visit the National Zoo. The goal of Galloway and her team of experts is to capture audiences everywhere and educate them on the lifestyles of elephants.
“When somebody learns to know [National Zoo elephants] Shanthi, Ambika, Bozie, they care about them very deeply. That makes them that much more anxious to try to help save elephants that live in the wild,” Galloway said.
2. It is a place where they don’t have to compete with humans for food
“In the wild, they don’t have any keepers running around making sure that they have a great diet all the time, and they are constantly in competition with people for space,” Galloway said.
3. Zoo elephants live longer lives than their wild counterparts
Asian elephants typically live to their mid to late 50s. African elephants live much shorter lives due to poaching and other tribal related practices.
“You could honestly say the life expectancy of an African elephant may be closer to 30 because of that type of violent death. It’s real and that’s what happens in the wild,” Galloway said.
4. We can learn more about elephants
Through studying the behaviors of the National Zoo’s elephants, scientists are able to use radio collars to track wild elephants, ensure their safety and study their daily whereabouts.
“We learn about how they move around that helps us keep track of poachers,” Galloway said. “All of those things help us take care of our elephants here in the zoo, but they also help us to protect elephants in the wild.”
To hear more about Galloway and their daily work, please visit www.nationalzoo.si.edu.