Spike Update: Training and Treats

Get the latest scoop on Asian elephant Spike from animal keeper Amanda Bobyack.

The more time keepers spend with our new Asian elephant, Spike, the more we fall in love with him. He is extremely intelligent and is able to pick up new husbandry behaviors quickly. His former keeper from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay who assisted us during the transition returned to Florida at the end of March. Now, our team is working on forming a trusting relationship with Spike that will help us provide him with the best possible care.

Each morning, we begin our day by greeting Spike and offering him some of his favorite foods. Recently, the Zoo received a special delivery from Florida—more than 17,000 pounds of browse! These new treats include banana plants (leaves and trunks), queen palm fronds and coconut tree fronds. While he eats his breakfast, keepers perform a quick health checkup. Spike has mastered many of the behaviors that allow us to monitor his body condition. That includes lifting his feet so we can examine his footpads, as well as opening his mouth for dental checks. Some of the visual and vocal cues we use to elicit these behaviors are different from the ones his keepers used at Busch Gardens, but he picked them up quickly. 

Apart from eating and training, Spike spends the majority of his day exploring his indoor and outdoor habitats. As animal keeper Kayleigh Sullivan mentioned in the previous update, we have put lots of enrichment in these areas to encourage Spike to forage and move about. At night, he lays down to sleep, which demonstrates to us that he is getting more comfortable with his surroundings.

Our female elephants—Ambika, Shanthi, Bozie, Maharani, Kamala and Swarna—have adapted well to Spike’s presence. After the initial excitement and curiosity, we are getting back into our normal routines. Our team is very excited to reunite Spike with the Calgary girls (Kamala, Maharani and Swarna) and are excited for him to meet the new ladies in his life, too.