Not your typical guest lecturers: Physiology class learns about elephant behavior firsthand

COLLEGE STATION, TX – Texas A&M University was proud to welcome Gene and Chris to campus on Tuesday, November 24th. Gene and Chris are not the typical guests that would be welcomed to campus; they are beautiful female elephants that eat roughly 200 pounds a day. They spent the morning happily eating hay and bamboo at Spence Park as part of the Elephant Walk tradition where seniors come together and wander around campus as their days as students wind to a close in the coming semester. One of the elephants found joy in attempting to pull out a yellow trash bag out of the can, probably in search of monkey chow, which is their favorite treat.

Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon with elephant

Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, was asked to be the attending veterinarian for the visiting elephants. Dr. Theodore Friend, professor of animal science at Texas A&M University, has worked with the elephants before and was there with Dr. Blue-McLendon in case of an elephant emergency.

“The main reason we are out there with the elephants is to be available in case they are in need of veterinary care, but most likely they will not be needing us.” said Blue-McLendon. “This morning my Physiology (VTPP 323) class is going to be held out here at Spence Park, where the elephant’s owner, Bill Starnes, will be teaching us elephant behavior.”

Class with elephant

Physiology students interact with Gene during class at Spence Park before the annual Elephant Walk on Thursday, November 24, 2009.

They have several interesting behavioral patterns including rocking from side to side, feeding and grooming each other.

“The rocking to one side usually indicates that they want something” said Friend, “sometimes it means they are anticipating something like food, water, or are excited before a performance. Elephants usually run in a matriarchal group, and will typically bond, like Gene and Chris.”

Gene and Chris will not be walking around campus; they are mainly out there for the students to take pictures with them, as well as an educational component for Dr. Blue-McLendon’s VTPP 323 class.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons