Puppy Pals Around With Pachyderms At New York Zoo

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A -five-month-old hound/mix is melting our hearts as she is making fast friends with the elephants at the Seneca Park Zoo in New York. ‘Zuzu,’ is a rescue from the Humane Society of Greater Rochester’s Lollypop Farm and was chosen to be the zoo’s first elephant barn dog.

What does an elephant barn dog do, you ask?

In addition to showing the general public how they help condition and train the elephants at the zoo, elephant barn dogs also bond with the elephants as would quite possibly happen were they all out in the wild. Elephants are social animals and have extensive social relationships with other species, so zoo officials hope that Zuzu and the four ‘senior’ elephants she is in charge of.

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Lindsay Brinda is the elephant manager at the zoo and met with other elephant managers from zoos across the country to learn about elephant barn dog programs. Brinda said she decided what she wanted in a barn dog and then reached out to the local Humane Society to look for a dog with those qualities. Brinda said it was important that the dog was calm and was okay with being handled by lots of people. She wanted a puppy because she hopes that a long-standing relationship will develop, and the folks at Lollypop Farm seemed to have picked the perfect pup.

Brinda says that Zuzu is doing phenomenally and has already learned three behaviors. The trainers use that training and those behaviors to show the public how they work with the elephants, but on a dog. The four senior elephants she watches and ‘trains’ with seem to doing well together so far, and Brinda hopes that they’ll eventually be so comfortable they’ll all live together in the same space.

We are excited to announce the addition of Zuzu, an elephant barn dog, to the Seneca Park Zoo family! Zuzu is a…

Posted by Seneca Park Zoo on Friday, August 3, 2018

The zoo says they are committed to giving the best, most natural habitats they can to their animals and are working to create more multi-species habitats to more similarly copy wild habitats. This will give visitors a rich experience, and will be great for the animals as they have enrichment as well. Zuzu can interact with other animals at some point, and will give them all interaction they may not have otherwise.

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Zuzu will also be part of the security team as she gets a bit older, and will always have a human nearby, even in after-hours while she is crated at night. She’s getting lots of exercise too and visitors have all been requesting to see Zuzu–which is kind of funny when you figure they’re at a zoo but wanting to look at a puppy!

That said, it’s not every day you get to see an adorable puppy with a beautiful group of elements, and to see the magic in that interaction, so it’s understandable why people can’t get enough of them.