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“Tons” of Fun At Fair

Well, it´s doubtful they do any leaping, but they are part of the fun at this year´s Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee in Angels Camp.

But, if you´ve ever wanted to ride an elephant, you have the opportunity this week.

The pachyderm company “Have Trunk will Travel” has brought along two Asian elephants — Rosie and Dixie – – from Paris (in Southern California) to Angels Camp fair.

Joanne Smith has worked with large animals at a number of zoos over the years and she helps care for who will give rides during the four day run of the fair. She says anyone can ride – kids or adults.

Smith says the pair of pachyderms are use to giving rides, usually working the many fairs in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego County and even the California State Fair at Cal Expo in Sacramento.

She says the fair work gives them an opportunity to talk about the elephants and allow people to learn more about endangered animals.

Smith said there are only 35,000 Asian elephants left in the world. Signs that tell the story about the large mammals are around their enclosure.

“We feel that when people learn about something, people start to care about it. That´s one benefit to giving rides,” she said. “It gives kids and adults the opportunity to see them and experience them, which in turn gets them to care about them.”

“Rosie” the elephant is from Malaysia, is 20 years-old, weighs 7,000 pounds, and isn´t full grown yet. “She´ll probably gain another ton and grow another foot taller,” Smith said. “Dixie” is comes from Thailand, is 39 years-old and full grown. She weights in at about 8,000 pounds.

Caring for the large animals takes a lot of dedication, Smith admits. “It´s pretty much from the time you wake up to time you go to bed.” She says when the animals are at home in Paris, the keepers start the day at 6:30 a.m. and don´t finish the last feeding until 10 p.m. “It can be a long day,” Smith said.

Elephants don´t sleep much, according to Smith, getting about five hours a night, and not at one time. “They´ll eat for about an half an hour, lay down and sleep for about an hour, get up, eat some more then lay down on their other side.” Smith says this usually goes on in the wee hours of the morning.

So, what do elephants eat? Smith said the elephants can eat about 200 pounds of hay a day… each. They only “process” about 60 percent of what they eat. “So, you´re seeing a lot of what goes in… come out,” Smith joked.

The animals eat grass, wild oats as well as pine, palm and acacia tree foliage.

But what about peanuts? “No, they don´t actually eat peanuts. It´s not really part of their diet,” Smith explained. She says the misconception probably started in the circus because peanuts were sold as a snack during performances and people fed the salty snack to the elephants.

The elephants can be seen and ridden near the fair´s main gate through Sunday.