Feeding time at the zoo: Queen feeds elephants at ZSL Whipsnade

The Queen and Prince Philip today visited ZSL Whipsnade, to officially open the new Centre for Elephant Care at the zoo. Both Royals got stuck in and helped feed the large mammals some treats.

Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh fed bananas to Donna, one of the zoo’s Asian elephants. She took one off each Royal, before being told to go back for more. The couple seemed delighted to be so close to the animal.

Prince Philip, interested in conservation, actually opened the older wing of the enclosure 20 years ago. The new area for the elephants cost £2 million and is over 700 sqm, complete with viewing platform. Now, the lights dim at night, and microphones held to pick up “infrasonic” sounds the elephants use to communicate with one another; this is not detectable by the human ear.

ZSL runs London Zoo in Regent’s Park and a Whipsnade branch; the new elephant enclosure will be open to the public from tomorrow.


Assistant curator of elephants Lee Sambrook demonstrated how keepers clean the animals’ feet and inspect their teeth to the Royal guests. The Queen was especially interested to hear about the round-the-clock care they receive, and compared it to keeping horses, such is the bond between elephant and human.

David Field, zoological director at the Zoological Society of London, said: “They were both really interested in the bond between the elephants and the keepers.

“The Queen talked about the bond between horses and people so she really understood that.”

The Queen and Duke also met ten-month-old Elizabeth, who was born the day before the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations last year and thus named in her honour. The Sovereign smiled upon hearing the young animal’s name, and was presented with a photo of her to take home.

Her Majesty remarked: “The elephants look very happy in there. It’s a rather nice change for them, I suppose.”

Told they make a lot a mess, she added: “Yes, they do don’t they? They are quite destructive.”

After, The Queen and Duke headed to Priory View in Dunstable, an independent living scheme for older residents, to officially open the centre.

They toured some of the locals’ homes, and also the facilities to enable the residents to maintain independence. This includes a beauty salon.

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