KEEPERS at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm are brushing up their skills ahead of work starting on a multi-million pound Elephant Eden at the site.
Head keeper at the Wraxall attraction, Chris Wilkinson, travelled to Germany to learn more about the giant beasts at the First European Elephant Management School in Hamburg.
Work on the Elephant Eden – which it is claimed will be Europe's biggest elephant sanctuary – is due to start later his year.
Under expert guidance from experienced elephant keepers and industry specialists, Mr Wilkinson was given intense tuition in elephant husbandry, working closely with elephants in real-life scenarios.
From theoretical study of elephant biology and behaviour, through to hands-on practical health-checks including foot care and cleaning, the Elephant Management School based at Hagenbeck's Tierpark provides a comprehensive training program for zoo keepers from across the globe.
Mr Wilkinson, who has more than 12 years experience managing the current collection at Noah's Ark, which includes rhinos, giraffes and lions, will work alongside a specialist new team of experienced elephant keepers to be employed at the zoo if the project is successful.
The Elephant Eden complex is set to give 20 acres of roaming territory for Asian elephants, who will benefit from a vast heated house, extensive sand yards and an indoor swimming pool.
Mr Wilkinson said: "The teaching at Hagenbeck was of an extremely high standard and has equipped me with a foundational knowledge of elephant welfare and husbandry which we hope will come in useful here at Noah's Ark in the future.
"Elephants are highly intelligent, specialist mammals.
"They require professional care when in captivity."
Noah's Ark is preparing to reopen for its new season on Saturday February 4 after its usual winter break.
Visitors can enjoy improved public facilities this year after significant structural changes.
A new visitor entrance and enlarged cafe are some of the building developments which will improve the visitor experience this February.
For more information and for admission prices visit www.noahsark zoofarm.co.uk or phone 01275 852606.