When this reporter met Kosigi, an elephant born in 1990, at Everland Zoo in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province at 10 a.m. on Thursday, the giant animal was seen continuously protruding its trunk to a pulley mounted at 4-meter high and transferring hay from there, before eating. The device, which was installed in August, was created to help prevent the elephant trunk from hardening, as the muscle on the trunk can harden if the elephant only eats feed on the floor. It was also designed to stimulate the growth of trunk muscles, and allow the zookeepers to check the interior of the elephant's mouth and the health of its tooth.
Then, Kosigi moved around in search of feed hidden in an artificial structure, positioned about 20 meters away. As the elephant continues to walk along an oval route towards a pond where it can enjoy bathing, it soon ends up walking as much as 40 meters. The measure is part of an "action enrichment program," which is meant to increase activities of animals within a limited space. After concluding a day, Kosigi goes to its indoor shelter where it enjoys special care of its toenails and ears. In addition to basic meals, the element is also provided with multivitamin and calcium supplements, and chews raw bamboo trees to ensure the health of its teeth. “The elephant receives regular health checkup by veterinarians, and we are constantly monitoring its health through its urine and feces,” said Park Jeong-wook, a zookeeper in charge of elephants.
Eveland’s efforts to transform the zoo from a simple "exhibition site" into a "safe habitat" for animals are producing positive outcomes. The zoo acquired on September 8 a certification from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) of the U.S., which is accorded only to zoos that operate a world-class animal welfare system. Of more than 2,800 animal facilities in North America, less than 10 percent have received an AZA certificate. Only five places have been certified in Asia including Eveland and Seoul Grand Park in South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Having built up operational know-how for more than 40 years since its founding in 1976, Everland applied for AZA certification in order to elevate the level of animal welfare in the zoo. To prepare itself for onsite inspection by AZA officials, Everland made thorough preparations to win AZA certification from 2017. The zoo has introduced the "zoo information management system (ZIMS)," which is comparable to an HR system at conglomerates, and expanded its capacity for customized management for different animals.
Everland has also acquired certification from AZA in preservation of endangered species and their breeding. Currently, Everland is home to more than 1,600 animals of 140 species. As many as 80 species, or 60 percent of the animals living there, are on Grades 1 and 2 animals under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which are close to extinction. Everland was the only Korean zoo that has successfully bred cheetahs, golden monkeys, and golden hair lion Tamarin in Korea.