300 Pound Bundle of Excitement

The Columbus Zoo has a new baby to show off, and I was given the assignment to cover its debut to the public.

Members of the media often get a little better access than the general public. Usually this means An Asian elephant named Phoebe, her son and handlers enter the indoor area in the Columbus Zoo pachyderm building for his debut on April 3, 2009. stepping five feet in front of the front row to get a better glimpse of the event. An Asian elephant named Phoebe stands over her son during his debut at the Columbus Zoo on April 3, 2009.This allows news organizations to get their job done quickly and efficiently and then get out of the way. It also allows us to get an image that is a little more unique and unhampered by wires, jostling crowds and other obstructions. Because we get a little better access than the general public, we can usually get a better photograph that tells the story and a better image means it is more likely to be ran on the cover of the website or prominently on the website.

On Friday, I made my way to the pachyderm building and photographed inside with the public as the new 300 pound baby Asian elephant and his mother Phoebe entered the indoor house with their handlers. Phoebe had the baby on March 27.

The baby elephant plays under his mother Phoebe during his debut at the Columbus Zoo on April 3, 2009.People were pressed up against the glass with their children in front of them to watch the mother and child as they sauntered around the large facility. A few minutes into the event the zoo’s public relations person helped me get closer by allowing me inside the area between the building where the general public was and the fence that stands about 10 feet away from the general public viewing windows.

Upon entering the inner sanctum, I assumed I would be told to stay against the wall or not to make any sudden moves. I have photographed horses or animals being shown off at elementary schools and have been told those very things. Of course an Asian elephant is a tad bit bigger so I wanted to give it all the respect it deserves.

However the handlers said I could photograph from next tAn electric fence sign in the pachyderm building of the Columbus Zoo.o the fence and then added that the electric fence was turned off. Admittedly I wasn’t sure If I should believe the handlers when they said it with a big grin on their face. After all April Fool’s day was just a couple days ago and what more fun could there be than to watch a photojournalist get zapped?

All joking aside it was a rare treat.The Columbus Zoo's newest addition is a boy baby elephant born to an Asian elephant named Phoebe at the Columbus Zoo on April 3, 2009.The zoo is having a name the baby contest. I never imagined I’d be kneeling and photographing a baby Asian elephant and mother just 4 or 5 feet away. Of course the handlers are about 3 feet away to either side of me. This is definitely a view that the general public doesn’t get and it definitely reminded me why I enjoy being a photojournalist.People watch the Asian elephant mother and her son during the debut of the baby elephant at the Columbus Zoo on April 3, 2009.

Two moments stick in my mind from the event. First the fact that every single grate seemed to entertain the baby elephant to no end. He would use his trunk to investigate and explore every grate he was near.

And second when the baby wandered a little farther away than normal, he came running back to mother as she started to walk away. She quickly stopped to allow him to catch up and he skidded to a stop as she slowly lifted her front left foot up and around her son as he skidded to a halt. It was a little bit of a cartoon moment and I could hear some of the other people around chuckle. 

I stayed for the 2 hour duration of the debut photographing and talking to the handlers and zoo patrons. I learned a few bits of interesting knowledge like the gestation period for a baby Asian elephant is 655 days. This is the second baby that Phoebe has had at the Columbus Zoo. Her first baby was born at the zoo in 2004 and his name is Bodhi. She also had another baby before coming to the Columbus Zoo and his name is George. The new elephant is the 9th born in 6 zoos in the past 5 years. I was also told that in vitro fertilization doesn’t work for Asian elephants.

Near the end of the event I went back inside with the public to experience the excitement of the zoo’s patrons as they viewed the event. It was fun to see the excitement that a 300 pound pachyderm can bring.

The back of an Asian elephant named Phoebe with wood shavings.People watch the Asian elephant mother and her son during the debut of the baby elephant at the Columbus Zoo on April 3, 2009.Asian elephant Phoebe stands with her son as he nurses during his debutat the Columbus Zoo on April 3, 2009.

A tv videographer does a live spot for the noon news with the Asian elephant mother Phoebe and her new son along with the handlers at the Columbus Zoo on April 3, 2009.Even though I was given a special treat by getting close to Phoebe and her baby, a television videographer also got a treat to be inside the elephants arena when he did a live shot for the noon news.

I will admit, I was a little jealous but he is about 15 feet from them.

The Columbus Zoo is having a name the baby contest and more information can be found on their website.



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