It is always good to visit with those who not only have dedicated their careers to Asian elephants but also help support our efforts, so in May president Linda Reifschneider, accompanied by volunteer Cynthia Christison, headed to Florida.
Their first stop Jacksonville Zoo where Corey Neatrour and LeShea Upchurch have been hosting a successful CPK event for us for 3 years. A brief presentation of AES’s work, a lovely visit of the zoo, and a shared pizza lunch, made for a great day with these wonderful friends.
The Center for Elephant Conservation is always a very special visit, and this trip was no exception. Spending time with elephant experts Wendy Kiso, Janice Aria, and Laura Keefe, who has also been hosting a CPK event for us in recent years, is always an opportunity to expand our knowledge as well as visiting some very special pachyderms! The opportunity to see the lovely Assan again and meet Mysore, the 72+ year old Asian female elephant who has taught so very many people all about elephants, made for a most memorable and appreciated visit.
At the Tampa Zoo, our CPK hostess Christi Reiter was finishing up a maternity leave, so met us with her new and charming daughter Charlotte and brought us up to date on their elephants as well as meeting their keepers, her hubby, and the most charming Aldabra tortoise, “Al”, ever!
We also had a very good visit with Dr. Mark Wilson at his Zoo Teaching School. While being a vet who can treat most species, Mark is especially experienced in elephant medical care and is always willing to share his expertise with us when we ask.
We spent a delightful morning with Patricia Zerbini at Two Tails Ranch where she offers her visiting public the opportunity to meet and connect with Asian elephants and sends them off understanding the realities of caring for elephants – both those living with us or in the wild today, as well as the challenges they face in the future. It is always a special treat to spend some time with her big – and still growing – Asian bull Luke, and one cannot help but be impressed with her message to the public about elephant care and challenges.
Our last stop was the Nashville Zoo. There Jennifer Wu set up the opportunity for us to present AES to keepers and volunteers. It was especially appreciated to be able to introduce ourselves to so many of her friends and coworkers who have been supporting us through the CPK events – and now also a Granite City Food & Brewery evening! It needs to be added that their new zoo entry is amazing: truly like entering an African village, sans commercial signs, and with new facilities (thinking specifically of the new ladies’ restroom at the entrance!) that are both welcoming and simply beautiful.
Thank you to each of our hosts who so generously welcomed us along the way, and thanks to Cynthia Christison for helping Linda talk AES to those we visited. It is through the collaboration and cooperation of those who care, have the experience and knowledge, and spend their working lives 24/7 on behalf of this magnificent species that the Asian elephant has its best partners in its long trek into the next century. We appreciate, respect, and thank you for all you do!