Our state-of-the-art Elephants of Asia habitat, which debuted in 2010, is the largest in the history of the Zoo, occupying “center stage” on our campus, in the very heart of the Zoo. The sprawling, 6.56-acre exhibit boasts more than three acres of outdoor space, deep bathing pools, a waterfall, sandy hills, varied topography, clever enrichment opportunities, and a high-tech barn capable of caring for elephants of all sizes and ages. The facility greatly exceeds the standards set out by California Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
For guests of the Zoo, Elephants of Asia focuses on the rich connection between elephants and the cultures of Thailand, India, China, and Cambodia. The exhibit familiarizes guests with the threats Asian elephants face in the wild and the Zoo-supported conservation programs aimed at addressing these challenges.
Optimal Elephant Care
The Los Angeles Zoo’s expert elephant keepers play a vital role in the health and welfare of our four-elephant herd, which consists of cows Tina, Jewel, and Shaunzi and one bull, Billy. The team has a total of over 100 years of combined experience working with animals at the Zoo.
The habitat was designed to promote and support optimal health and wellbeing for our elephants, with varied topography for exercise and exploration, trails covered in a deep layer of foot-friendly river sand, and a barn that’s equipped with elephant-sized “bedrooms” and heated floors.
When animal care staff need to interact with the elephants, they utilize protected contact, which is best for the safety of our staff. With protected contact, Zoo staff do not share the same physical space as the elephants; rather, staff utilize barriers and positive reinforcement to manage the animals.
Elephants have long played an important role in the cultural, artistic, and religious heritage of many Asian cultures. For centuries, elephants have been revered in Thailand, India, China, and Cambodia. Elephants of Asia is designed raise to awareness of their cultural significance and familiarize guests with the challenges they face in the wild while increasing appreciation, amazement, and wonder for these great animals.
Elephant Circle serves as the gateway to the habitat. Life-size metal statues introduce guests to the natural history of Asian elephants, and graphics and sculptures compare and contrast Asian elephants and their African cousins. The gateway serves as the visitor’s first view into the habitat, with an overlook into the Deep-Water Pool, a gift from Patti & Stanley Silver, which can be used by the elephants for bathing.
The beautiful Wasserman Family Thai Pavilion educates visitors about the cultural and economic significance of elephants in Thailand. While the Thai economy was once heavily dependent upon the labor of elephants, many domesticated elephants are now displaced by new economic realities. Visitors can also learn about the care elephants receive at the Los Angeles Zoo and have the opportunity to make a donation, with proceeds going toward in-house elephant program needs.
Adjacent to the Thai Pavilion is a large demonstration yard featuring myriad enrichment items for stimulating play, such as boomer balls, fire hoses, and street sweeper brushes.
Behind the Thai Pavilion and located within the center of the exhibit is the Elephant Barn. Modeled after a Thai structure, the barn encompasses 16,600 square feet and provides infrastructure to support the Zoo’s exceptional level of veterinary care and animal husbandry. A specialized restraint stall ensures keeper and animal safety as the animals undergo medical examinations. Overhead walkways in the elephant barn enable keeper teams and behavioral researchers to observe the animals without intruding on natural socialization. The barn is capable of holding up to 11 adult elephants of any age or herd composition, including bulls, cows, calves, and aged animals.
A gift from the MacDonald Family Foundation, the Winthrop Elephants of India Plaza focuses on the impact that fractured forests have on wild elephant populations. Scientists estimate that as many as 10-15,000 elephants live in India, more than any other country in Asia. Despite these numbers, elephants in India are found only in reserves, and their numbers are threatened by habitat loss and human-elephant conflict. The Zoo’s India section features a waterfall that elephants can use to shower themselves. In addition, the rock wall of the waterfall features holes and crevices in which zoo keepers can place food for the elephants to discover and explore.
A Gift from the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Elephants of China addresses the decline of elephant populations in this region. Despite China’s huge size, the elephant population there is estimated to be less than 250 individuals restricted to southern Yunnan.
The Zoo’s habitat highlights the unique, respectful relationship between elephants and the Dai people of China. It features graphics detailing this relationship as well as a replica of a Dai well. Zoo patrons view the elephants from a boardwalk over a marsh with adjacent habitats for the sarus crane, a species native to China. At nearly six feet tall, the sarus crane is the world’s tallest flying bird.
Guests journey to the Cardamom Mountains in the Fritz B. Burns Foundation Cambodia Pavilion. The pavilion offers sweeping views of the elephant habitat with a view of mountains and forests of Griffith Park in the background. The habitat includes several features dedicated to the elephants, including Elephant Lake, a Gift from the Winnick Family Foundation, an enrichment tree for feeding, and a forested exploration trail.
The Cambodia Pavilion tells the story of the elephants that live in the Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia. These mountains are among the last wild refuges for elephants in Cambodia. The Los Angeles Zoo has supported conservation efforts within the Cardamom Mountains for the past decade, with the goal of addressing the human-elephant conflict within this region. Zoo visitors have the opportunity to directly contribute with proceeds going to various conservation projects in the Cardamom Mountains.