MUST SEE: Elephant goes bobbing for honeydew melons

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Summer has almost arrived at the Oregon Zoo, and one resident in particular is diving in headfirst — trunk and all. Samudra, a 12-year-old male Asian elephant, made a splash May 19th in the pool at Elephant Lands.

With the warm sun shining down, the 4-ton pachyderm was eager to cool off in the pool. He dove for treats of apple and honeydew melon, and playfully splashed with his feet and trunk. After a quick break in the sun, Samudra plunged back into the 160,000-gallon pool for another swim.

“He loves to play in the water,” said Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo elephant program. “Now that the weather is warming up, I think Samudra and the rest of the family will be spending a lot of time poolside.”

Samudra took his afternoon dip in the larger of two pools at Elephant Lands, which is 80 feet wide and 12 feet deep — perfect for a bull elephant who enjoys a good dive. Both pools incorporate state-of-the-art filtration and treatment systems that completely filter the water every hour to maintain quality and allow re-use. The pool also includes a play jet that sprays bursts of water, controlled remotely from a keeper presentation area.

The zoo’s award-winning Elephant Lands habitat, which opened in 2015, was designed through the elephants’ eyes to maximize the welfare, activity and choice of each individual, with a variety of feeding methods that mimic the grazing habits of wild elephants — and plenty of opportunities to go for a swim.

The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its Asian elephant program, which has spanned more than 60 years. Considered highly endangered in their range countries, Asian elephants are threatened by habitat loss, conflict with humans and disease. It is estimated that just 40,000 to 50,000 elephants remain in fragmented populations from India to Borneo. The zoo supports a broad range of efforts to help wild elephants and has established a $1 million endowment fund supporting Asian elephant conservation.

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