Auckland Zoo - Zoo Experience - 2011



Auckland Zoo has many things to offer. You already couuld enjoy our information and photos of the past holiday (2007 and 2009). But this time we have much more to tell you and to show you. There are many Zoo Experiences to choose from. We took the Elephant Experience. With this experience you get the opportunity of being back stage and getting some great information about elephants. But you get the change being very close to Buma, the elephant and you get the opportunity to give him a shower. Scrubbing all over this huge animal. It takes half a day but for us it could have go on, and on, and on..... We immediate wished we could work at the Auckland Zoo. We do love animals.

Good, let's get back to the Elephant Experience. It started very funny from the beginning. We went to the info center and waited there. Suddenly a lady appeared from behind the counter and she immediately greeted us by name. How did she knew it was us? Easy, she only had 1 Elephant Experience tour today, for two ladies. So not hard to figure out that is was us! We connected immediately. As my wife wore a t-shirt with the name of Bethells Cottage on it, that was a big hit. Our guide, Elena, did find it a very good choice, the west coast and Bethells is the best. So do we agree! And the world is a little place, Swanson and Bethells, so close to eachother. Being a volunteer lifeguard, together with her husband, she is often at Bethells and.....yeah, it is a small world, she knew our dear friends Trude and John of Bethells Beach Cottages. Are we lucky people? Yes, we are. We are one big family and it feels sooooo good.
We got introduced to everybody and it took not long before we were known as the Xena Girls. During our walk towards the elephant area, Elena talked about the cheetah experience she did with Trude. Something we surely must do next time. So take a note, if you ever go to the Auckland Zoo, do a Zoo Experience. On the way we stopped to get our gummi boots. If you read already our other holiday information you know where the name 'gummi boots or gummies' comes from.

At the elephant area we were introduced to Andrew. If you had the chance to see the TV-series about the Aucklant Zoo, you probably saw him already. If you do not recall him, the photos surely will refresh your memory.

We talked a bit on how and why we came to New Zealand, and how many times we already visited this beautiful country. And so it came ofcourse to the magic words 'Xena' and 'Lucy Lawless'. Everybody was so interested and we had to tell them all about our greets and meets with Lucy. We got to know that she frequently visites the Zoo with her children. Well, the Zoo is then also a divine place on nice days, to hang around, walk, study the animals, free time, leisure and education, all together. A great combination.

Then back to for what we came : The Elephant Experience. We received a very clear explanation on what we could expect and what had to do. Then Buma was brought in, while we waited behind the very thick iron pilars. They did put two chains on her, as security measurements. We gave Buma a banana and pat her trunk as a way of saying 'hello' and to get to know eachother. We pat her on the trunk and on her cheek. Then Buma goes lying down and puts herself on her left side. Andrew takes the hose and sprays her wet. And then it is up to us, together with Andrew, to clean Buma with hard brushes. All the mud must come off. This cleaning is done every day and only once a week visitors, as us, can have the opportunity to do so.

The scrubbing prevents infections. In the wild life elephants do this by themselves by rubbing against the trees. The thick crust falls off then.
At the Auckland Zoo, Buma is scrubbed daily. Cause why would they take the risk to get an infection if you can prevent this with a daily scrub?
So we scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed and kept scrubbing. Sometimes I was lying on top of Buma.
And ofcourse it had to happen. My wife Karin, took the hose, and in stead of spraying over Buma, my gummies got filled with water. Tralala, yeah, we had fun and so did Andrew, the Zoo Keeper. He called me Marty, cause it seemed that Martine was to difficult. So from now on on my name for the Kiwis is Marty. I loved it.

We were relaxed, talked with everybody and shared opinions, thoughts, etc.... We washed, scrubbed and loved Buma. No, we were not afraid. And that ofcourse loosens up team members, and Andrew too. Connecting to people is wonderful. Hey, why would we otherwise do such a Zoom Tour? Right? We do love New Zealand, we are more at home there then in our own country. People always says that this is a feeling of being on holidays. Well, not for us. We are homesick when we have to go back to Belgium. And we feel at home in New Zealand, we feel amongs family. That is a huge difference then just a holiday feeling.

Zoo Tour, right! Later on we were told that Andrew had a great time with us, so did we! And were getting more and more fun, especially when we need to translate some words in Dutch. I ain't gonna tell you which words, but we had a lot of laughter. I think the other visitors, who were watching us from behind the window, washing Buma, were laughing too. So without any doubt our body language must have been very clear.
Buma got a complete scrubbing. We did the body, the trunk, behind and in the ears (choochie, choochie!) and over her eyes. Then Andrew made her sit on her knees. It was amazing to see how such a great animal can move so easily.
Time to scrub the other side. Then Buma stood up. Wow, what a feeling when she stands so closely to you. It was a great feeling to be so near to her. And it was as if we understood eachother. There were vibes in the air. I felt she knew we loved her and wanted to help her to stay healthy. We were friends and we love her. Time to give her a reward. Her trunk is as a vaccuum cleaner! LOL! What amazed me the most was that Buma didn't had an odor. Animals have each always a certain odor, but Buma didn't.
I also need to give a big compliment to the whole team cause it was super clean inside. It was spot on!

Our job was done and we got awarded by Andrew with some extra info regarding the tusk. Buma is an indian elephant and therefore she has small tusks in her lips. You need to know that we were standing under her trunk and she kept her muzzle fully open. Buma had a sick tooth left below. It was completely decoloured and looked a kind of green. But no worries. Either the tooth breaks in two or just falls out in one piece. Or is she swallows it, well, you will find it somewhere, later on through the natural way! They do not intervene here. Buma may have some pain but everything goes the natural way.

Then it was time for Buma to go outside again. Shower time was over! Outside a lot of Zoo visitors were waiting for Buma and to get some information from Andrew, and to see some tricks carried out by Buma. Andrew instructed Buma so she did some excercises while he informed the audiance, how and why Buma could do the excercises.

We were allowed to follow Andrew and Buma. It didn't take long before Buma started to throw mud onto her back. There went our hard work to get her clean! She first took a dive in the swimming pool while Andrew keep spraying her with warm water. This was done to keep her relaxed and to minimalise the change over towards the cold water.
Now Buma needs to do a lot of work. Andrew instructed her to put a lot of stumps into the water. In case you would worry if Buma still can take a bath afterwards, now that the pool is full of stumps, no worries, those stumps will be taken out of the water by another team.

The performance ended and Buma and Andrew came back to us. We got the opportunity to touch her once more, to give some snacks and to get a picture with Buma.

Oh yes, I may not forget to mention the following : Andrew, The Magnificent!!! Andrew, you know why!!!!

Then time to get back. We thanked Andrew and all his team members for the the marvelous time, the unique experience and for the interesting information about elephants. Between Buma and Andrew there is a magic connection. You can see it, so can feel it. Wonderful!

Together it Elena we took a nice walk back with another nice chat. Elena was a fine photographer. She took heaps of photos for us. It felt as if we knew Elena for years. Told you we feel at home in New Zealand.

It would take about one hour to get the photos on a cd. So, no worries, we had plenty of time and we took a walk in the Zoo and went for a small snack, next to the shop. All of sudden Elena suprised us and gave us already an A4 print of a photo with Buma and us. A treat out of the 197 photos she took. She is a darling. Many thanks Elena! And how did she find us? Did we have a chip in our bodY? Cute, cute and nice, nice. We still appreciate it a lot.

Then we continued our visit at the Auckland Zoo and we came across Andrew again. We talked about the Zoo in Belgium. But you hardly can compare a Belgian Zoo, or maybe any European Zoo with the Auckland Zoo. Without any favourisme I must truly say that the Aucklan Zoo is in many ways on a much higher level then the Belgian Zoo. It starts already with the locations and the huge space all animals have.

Before going home we went back to the Info Center and filled in an adoption form for Buma.
And knowing we are Xena fans, the crew did put a map between the documents with directions to a special prop shop. Amazing! Awesome! Great people in a great country. Such things can only happen here! We appreciated it a lot and still do when remembering.

If you talk about people who are passionat about their job, well, it are for sure the people at the Auckland Zoo. So, if you have the opportunity and you are in New Zealand, visit the Zoo, do a Zoom Tour or Zoo Experience. You will not regret it!