Zoo elephant manager Kristin Warner walks the three older elephants through a routine of stretches, aerobics and yoga to keep arthritis at bay

By Saryn Chorney
May 08, 2018 03:24 PM
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They’re the resident “Golden Girls” of the Little Rock Zoo: Sophie, 49, Zina, 57, and Babe, 42, are all senior elephants. THV11 CBS News reports these ladies spend their days at a zoo in Arkansas rather than a cushy house in Miami, however they are each retired performers. All three are former circus elephants who once worked for the Ringling Bros., but nowadays they enjoy special workouts to keep them fit.

According to the zoo, both Sophie and Zina suffer from arthritis, a common condition among senior humans as well. While it’s unknown how their joint pain may affect their personalities (Sophie, for one, is described as “sassy, but sweet”), it’s likely their quality of life would suffer if the ailment wasn’t addressed.

“A lot of animals can get the same ailments as they get older as people do,” zoo elephant manager Kristin Warner tells THV11. “One of the biggest ailments we have to deal with is arthritis.”

To aid this issue and bring a little healthy fun into the elephants’ daily routine, Warner and her animal care team take the ladies on walks and guide them through stretches they might not normally do (for instance, lifting their legs extra high), in addition to arthritis medication. For the younger elephant, Babe, these elephant versions of downward dog and other poses are also helpful towards arthritis prevention.

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Because animals often have a longer life expectancy in captivity vs. in the wild, Warner says the yoga and other exercise efforts are meant to keep them limber and ensure the elephants have a good quality of life as they grow older.

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“We provide activities; We exercise them; they get food, water; they get to play in a pool,” she said. “We just want them to live a nice, healthy life in their golden years here at Little Rock.”

For all this care and special attention, we’re sure Sophie, Zina and Babe would say “thank you for being a friend” to Warner and her elephant care staff.