Photo in the News: Elephant Shuns Jumbo Treadmill

Elephant with treadmill photo
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May 19, 2006—You can lead an elephant to a treadmill, but you can't make her walk.

That's the lesson zookeepers are learning in Anchorage, Alaska, where they have been struggling to get the zoo's resident elephant to exercise.

Maggie, a 23-year-old African elephant (pictured here on May 16), is the only pachyderm at the Alaska Zoo, where she is kept indoors much of the time to protect her from the cold.

Critics have charged that Maggie should be moved to a zoo in a warmer climate, where she can enjoy the outdoors and the company of other elephants.

But rather than give her up, Alaska Zoo officials decided to build Maggie the world's first elephant treadmill.

The 25-foot-long (7.6-meter-long) apparatus was custom-made by an Idaho firm that constructs conveyor belts. But building it turned out to be the easy part.

Since the treadmill arrived at the zoo last September, Maggie has refused to use it, despite all kinds of tasty enticements from her handlers.

Zookeepers have used apples, carrots, birch-tree branches—and, yes, peanuts—to try to coax her onto the contraption. But so far she's gotten just three of her feet on the belt before backing off.

Still, Maggie's keepers are confident that she will come around in time.

"We have to be patient. Nobody has ever done this before," trainer Beth Foglesong told the Anchorage Daily News.

"The instructional video didn't come with [the treadmill]."

Blake de Pastino

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