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Feeding Asian elephants creates challenges

Keeping Asian elephants fed requires lots of food and lots of strategy.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Modified: November 24, 2010 at 4:11 pm •  Published: November 24, 2010

The Asian elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo weigh nearly four tons, and their keepers have a very specific diet for the two to stay healthy.

Their diets consist of fresh fruits and vegetables, grain and hay, said Toni Rife, an animal technician at the zoo.

The elephants eat everything from apples and pears to lettuce and broccoli. Zookeepers cut the food up into small bits that can be used as rewards for training sessions, baths and other activities during the day.

The elephants share about three bales of hay each day, but keepers provide the hay in a way that makes it interesting for the animals, Rife said. The hay is put inside a loose net and hoisted up high. The elephants then must stretch and use their trunks to pull down the food. The method gives the two extra exercise and mental stimulation.


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