Elephant Aid International receives bamboo supply from Havana resident

Published 3:19 pm Friday, February 10, 2023

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It’s no secret that it costs a significant amount of time and money to feed livestock, be it pigs, cows or horses. It costs significantly more to feed a single elephant, which can weigh as much as several bulls, and have an appetite to match. Attapulgus-based Elephant Aid International has two of these enormous mouths to feed with Asian elephants Bo and Tarra. The pair’s diet consists of hay, fruits and vegetables, as well as bamboo; in addition to stands of native river cane already found in the enclosures, the sanctuary has recently begun receiving a supply of bamboo from the local community.

Havana resident Phil Parks, along with neighbors Mark and Rhonda McEwen, found themselves with a stand of bamboo growing on their properties. According to Parks, rather than simply destroy the stand, he opted to harvest it and put it up for sale on Facebook Marketplace. This ultimately led to the neighbors becoming suppliers for the sanctuary, with sanctuary volunteers Linda Spike, Christopher Capeless and Pedro Lutz helping to haul the loads. “I had heard about it on the news,” Parks said. “If there’s anybody out there who has any bamboo, they should contact her,” he continued, referring to sanctuary founder Carol Buckley. “I would think anybody would want to contribute to a good cause.”

Bamboo is a staple of the Asian elephant diet, and according to Buckley, is a good source of both fiber and nutrition. “It’s fantastically nutritious. It has a lot of fiber, it has a lot of nutrients, it’s also really good for wearing their teeth down,” she said. Elephants have six sets of teeth, specifically grinding molars, throughout their life. “They’ve gotta keep wearing them down. If they don’t wear those teeth down they become overgrown, and it’s a train wreck in there.” One tooth can weigh up to 20 pounds. Bo is currently on his fourth set of teeth, while Tarra should grow in her sixth set within the next couple of years.

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“We’re really grateful to the community, for the community support,” Buckley said. “The bamboo, being that it is a natural diet of Asian elephants, it enhances their life. They enjoy it, they respond to it, and it’s good for their health.”