TORONTO – Ever wondered what it’s like to play soccer when you’re nearly ten feet tall, and weigh over four tons?
Well thanks to the keepers at Australia’s Taronga Zoo – and one particularly playful elephant – you don’t have to wonder anymore.
In honour of World Elephant Day on August 12, trainers at the zoo decided to fit a GoPro camera on the head of Gung the Elephant, a 15-year-old male Asian bull elephant with a decidely playful side.
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“Gung enjoys throwing toys over his shoulders and wearing them on his head, so we thought we’d utilise this to see what things look like from an elephant’s point-of-view,” Steve Westnedge, senior keeper at Tatonga Zoo, told 9 News in Australia.
In the video, Gung shows off some of his fancy footwork (or rather, trunkwork) playing with a pass from his trainers before passing the ball back to them through his pen wall.
Later on, Gung shows off his versatility with a rugby ball, playing with it on his trunk before dropkicking the ball with his front foot – a pretty impressive feat when you weigh over 4,000 pounds.
“We showed the [GoPro camera] headpiece to Gung to see if he was interested in trying it on and he loved the idea,” Westnedge said. “We were surprised at how eager he was to wear it and he hasn’t once tried to touch or remove the camera.”
The trainers hope the video will raise awareness of the problem of elephant poaching around the world, as well as shine a light on their efforts to save the Asian elephant population.
According to National Geographic, poachers have killed an estimated 100,000 elephants in the last three years alone.
And aside from his love of sports, Gung is an important part of Australia’s elephant conservation efforts.
The 15-year-old has already successfully bred with two of the females at the zoo, and according to his listing on the Taronga Zoo website Gung is “an extremely important elephant and a central figure in the future breeding program” designed to boost the elephant population.
Of course, with ball skills like that combined with his impressive size (like the old saying goes, “You can’t coach tall” especially at 9 feet), he’ll always have a fallback option in the world of sports.