Her Majesty The Queen fed Donna the elephant as she officially unveiled a new £2million elephant home at Whipsnade Zoo.
The brand new Centre for Elephant Care was given the royal seal of approval by HM The Queen, accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
The new centre provides more than 700m² of indoor space, and is fitted out with a host of elephant-friendly features, including one metre-deep soft sand flooring to provide maximum comfort and dimming lights to mimic night-time.
Interactive displays allow zoo visitors to try their hand at a jumbo pedicure, as they practise on a life-size model elephant foot.
The latest addition to the herd is ten-month-old calf Elizabeth, who was named by zookeepers in honour of Her Majesty, as she was born the day before The Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations in 2016.
The Queen, who is Patron of international conservation charity Zoological Society of London (ZSL) which runs ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, enjoyed a private tour of the Centre where they met assistant curator of elephants, Lee Sambrook and watched the elephants receive a pedicure.
HM The Queen, accompanied by The Duke – former president of ZSL – then unveiled a plaque commemorating the event, during a special ceremony where Her Majesty and His Royal Highness each fed Donna the elephant a banana.
Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and due to habitat loss, human conflict and poaching, their wild populations are in decline.
The species are also listed on ZSL’s Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) list, meaning there is a particularly urgent need for conservation action.
ZSL is working in Thailand, a major stronghold for Asian elephants, to reduce human-wildlife conflict and ensure the peaceful coexistence of elephants and humans.
Since opening to the public on April 12, visitors to the Centre for Elephant Care at the zoo have been able to view the herd in their new home.
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