Asian elephant Sujatha received a birthday bagpipe serenade on Thursday by members of the Santa Barbara Sheriff Pipe & Drum Corps at the Santa Barbara Zoo.
Sujatha turns 44 years old on Friday. Her companion, Little Mac, turns 44 next month. Both elephants have lived at the Santa Barbara Zoo since they arrived from India in 1971 as part of a trade with the Mysore Zoo, in return for California sea lions.
Sujatha was born to a working mother in an Indian logging camp, and Little Mac was discovered nearby in the forest, apparently orphaned.
In the response to the bagpipes, the two pachyderms trumpeted, made low humming sounds, swayed from side to side and touched each other with their trunks. Instead of a birthday cake, Sujatha was presented with a carved-out pumpkin, her favorite treat, filled with apples and mashed pumpkin.
Why perform for an elephant? Elephants are high intelligent animals and respond to changes in their environment. At the zoo, keepers provide daily “enrichment” by moving logs and sand around in the elephant enclosure, suspending branches and food from a 30-foot-tall umbrella-shaped hoist, hiding food treats and even sprinkling scents in different areas. The goal is to provide stimulation and variety for the pachyderms. Elephants can live up to 70 years, but usually average 55, making the zoo’s pachyderms roughly middle-age.
The Pipe & Drum Corps is a volunteer element of theSanta Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. Formed in 2007, it is the only law enforcement pipe band between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It supports the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Honor Guard in its ceremonial duties and in department activities such as graduations, promotions, holiday events, fundraisers, retirements and others.
— Julia McHugh is the director of public relations for the Santa Barbara Zoo.