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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Winter in July at the Phoenix Zoo

Today, from 7 AM to 11 AM, the Phoenix Zoo celebrated Winter in July. Yes, the temperatures were heating up to 104 degrees but the zoo was transformed into a winter wonderland with around 50 tons of snow.

Activities for children included snow targets, squirt gun targets, toddler snow pile and a snowman building pile. There was live music and games from DJ Rockin Rob.

Children could meet firefighters from the Phoenix Fire Department and learn about water safety. Also, the children could climb aboard the firetruck and have their picture taken.

For me, the high point of the morning was watching Reba get her annual firehose shower from the Phoenix Fire Department.

The zoo has three female Asian elephants: Reba, Indu and Sheena.

In general, the Asian elephant is smaller than the African elephant and has the highest body point on the head. The back is convex or level. The ears are small with dorsal borders folded laterally. It has up to 20 pairs of ribs and 34 caudal vertebrae. The feet have more nail-like structures than those of African elephants—five on each forefoot, and four on each hind foot.

The average shoulder height of females is 7.9 feet (2.4 m) and average weight is 2.7 t (3.0 short tons), while average shoulder height of males is 9 feet ( 2.75 m) and average weight is 4 t (4.4 short tons). Length of body and head including trunk is 18 - 21 feet (5.5–6.5 m) with the tail being 3.9 - 4.9 feet ( 1.2–1.5 m).

The elephants' skin color is usually gray, and may be masked by soil because of dusting and wallowing. Their wrinkled skin is movable and contains many nerve centers. It is smoother than that of African elephants, and may be depigmented on the trunk, ears, or neck. The epidermis and dermis of the body average 0.71 inches (18 mm) thick; skin on the dorsum is 1.2 inches (30 mm) thick providing protection against bites, bumps, and adverse weather. Its folds increase surface area for heat dissipation.

Asian elephants are highly intelligent and self-aware. They have a very large and highly convoluted neocortex, a trait also shared by humans, apes and certain dolphin species. Elephants have a greater volume of cerebral cortex available for cognitive processing than all other existing land animals, and extensive studies place elephants in the category of great apes in terms of cognitive abilities for tool use and tool making. They exhibit a wide variety of behaviors, including those associated with grief, learning, mimicry, play, altruism, use of tools, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness, memory and language. Elephants are reported to go to safer ground during natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes.

The three elephants were brought to the Phoenix Zoo from different facilities in hopes they would learn to be a social group. The staff tried numerous times and with various methods to get them to live harmoniously. However, the elephants have shown they would rather live singly. The three still have the opportunity to socialize with each other but it is done with a barrier in place.

Elephants in the wild are indeed social animals, but in the wild, all the members of the herd are related - mothers, daughters, cousins, aunts. Males stay with the herd until their early teens and are then pushed out of the herd where they either live singly or form small bachelor groups, only rejoining a herd for mating.

The three elephants are rotated three times per day so each of the three elephants has her turn out in the larger exhibit.

Reba, whom is 47 years old, is the one whom loves the hose shower!! Reba trumpeted with excitement!!!!!

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