Wildlife Wednesday- World Elephant Day

It’s Wednesday, and we know what that means. It’s time for Wildlife Wednesday Workout, and today is a special program honoring World Elephant Day. August 12 is World Elephant Day, so let’s celebrate the largest living land animal with a fantastic strength and endurance workout.

Most of us are probably familiar with elephants. Large, gray, extremely smart, very strong, and endangered. But elephants are more than just their descriptions. I was honored to work with them for five years as a zookeeper at Woodland Park Zoo, and there was never a day when I wasn’t simply gobsmacked at how amazing these creatures are.

(Read more about my time working with elephants, particularly our African elephant, Watoto)

Each elephant taught me different ways to convey lessons in how magnificent elephants really are, and why we should protect them. But none were as incredible as Bamboo’s talent for peeling oranges.

Secret Talent of Elephants

Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants loved fruit, and they had a sweet tooth for oranges. If you gave Watoto or Chai an orange, they would pop the whole thing in their mouth and possibly swallow them whole (they were not very mindful eaters). Bamboo, our eldest elephant, was a little different.

She still thoroughly enjoyed oranges, but there was one part she didn’t care for. The same part we don’t like on the orange– the peel. Only Bamboo didn’t have hands to peel the oranges. So, she used her trunk.

Trunks are incredibly useful to animals without hands. With their trunks, elephants can reach the tops of trees for browsing and foraging. They can interact with their herd mates. And they can peel oranges.

An elephant’s trunk has approximately 40,000- 60,000 muscles in that one structure. Just to give you an idea of how insane that factoid is, humans have more than 600 in their entire bodies. So, the trunk is incredibly strong, allowing elephants to pick up more than a hundred pounds in their trunk alone. But more than just strength is dexterity.

An elephant’s trunk is so dextrous, Bamboo was able to peel an orange with no assistance from any of her human care-givers. And she could do it faster than a human could peel an orange with both hands. Plus, she wasted none of the fruit, cleaning the rind before depositing the empty peel into my hands.

I loved sharing Bamboo’s secret talent with visitors because it never ceased to amaze them. Elephants are an impressive animal to begin with, but witnessing something as simple as peeling an orange helped connect visitors to Bamboo and they were inspired to make a difference.

Protecting Elephants Around the World

As wonderful as elephants are, it’s difficult to imagine a world without them. However, elephants are considered endangered, with 415,000 African elephants living on the continent (mostly protected parks), and only 50,000 Asian elephants left in the world.

There is a lot to consider when determining major causes for these great beasts’ decline. Habitat destruction and human encroachment are major factors. African elephants are often poached for their tusks, while Asian elephants are falling victim to the ever-growing palm oil industry.

One thing we can do to save elephants is to support organizations which are working to protect and preserve the species. In particular, I’d like to point out a special place for elephants, and the conservation hero we will be honoring in today’s workout.

Wildlife Hero Dame Daphne Sheldrick

Orphan elephants are fed with milk by keepers at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Dame Daphne Sheldrick was a Kenyan of British descent who founded the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. She was an author, conservationist, and expert in animal husbandry, helping raise over 250 orphaned elephants for over 30 years.

The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. They do much more than rescue elephants. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust works with anti-poaching teams, aerial surveys, mobile veterinary units, and community outreach programs.

Sheldrick was awarded dozens of honors during her life, among them Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She passed away on April 12, 2018 at the age of 83. With her dedication to conservation and animal care, Sheldrick is a heroine of elephants and wildlife alike. I dedicated the Love, Life, and Elephants workout to Dame Daphne Sheldrick to honor her memory.

Wildlife Wednesday Workout for World Elephant Day

The style of today’s workout is something I call “Just One More”. We start off super easy, ridiculously easy. But each round we increase the rep count of each exercise. We keep adding “just one more” until we cannot complete all the exercises within the time.

Set a timer for repeating every 90 seconds, for 21 minutes. Your maximum number of rounds will be 14. If you are easily making it to round 14, increase your weight, and focus more on your form. Another way to increase intensity is to add an additional fifth exercise, (maybe a skull-crusher, or uneven push-ups).

You will also need a weight for this workout. I often use some of my homemade workout equipment, such as a sandbag, medicine ball, or dumbbells. But if you don’t have access to workout equipment or means to make your own, you can use several household items in place of weights. Containers for laundry detergent or pet food will work well. You can fill a backpack with books and use that. In an absolute pinch, you can use a can of beans, or your water bottle.

Love, Life, and Elephants

Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E 1934-2018

Every 90 seconds do these exercises:

  • Plank Pass: Start in a plank position, with your weight beside one arm. Keeping your hips and core engaged and steady (refrain from shifting the hips side to side), reach over with the opposite arm and drag or push the weight to the other side. Maintaining a tight core, pull or push the weight back to the other side of the body with your other hand. Moving from each side counts as one repetition.
  • Deadlift: Step up to your weight, feet about hip-width apart. Hinge at your hips just until you feel your hamstrings fire up, then, keeping your chest up, squat the rest of the way until you can grasp your weight (should be only a 1/4 to 1/2 squat). Keep your chest up, grabbing your weight, stand up by thrusting your hips forward, and straightening your legs. Your weight stays at your side. Return weight by again hinging at your hips and lowering the weight to the ground.
  • Clean: From a deadlift position, lower weights just past your knees. Keep your chest up, and thrust your hips forward to allow weights to “swing” up. Instead of letting weights swing out in front of you, bend your elbows upward to keep the weights close to your body. As the weights come up toward your chest, squat to get under the weight, and flip your elbows from upward to pointing out in front of you. This is a front rack position. If using a medicine ball, your elbows will shift from upward to a more downward position.
  • Push Press: In a front rack position with weights at your shoulder, perform the push press by slightly squatting and standing straight up. As you stand, use the momentum from the “drive” to push the weights up over your head.

Just One More

Bamboo greets visitors to the zoo

The trick is each round, you will increase the rep count for each exercise. So round 1 you do 1 plank pass (each way), 1 deadlift, 1 clean, and 1 push-press. Rest the remainder of the time. The 2nd round, you do 2 plank passes, 2 deadlifts, 2 cleans, and 2 push-presses. Continue adding a rep to the exercises until you cannot complete the rep count in the 90-second round.

The first few rounds will be easy-peasy. Those are great for getting your body used to the movements, so take advantage of the long rest. Or do active recovery- light jog in place, stretching, etc. But as you increase your rep count, your rest and recovery time goes down significantly, so prepare yourself for a hard workout.

Learning About Wildlife on World Elephant Day

Wildlife Wednesdays help us engage in learning about animals, nature, and conservation heroes while having a little more fun with our workouts and exercise. ZooFit teaches us to eat clean, live green, and train positive. We also teach you to love and respect wildlife and wild places.

Let me know what you think of today’s workout. How many rounds did you finish? Stay strong, and keep reaching for the tops of the trees, or even the stars.

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