Elephants at West Midland Safari Park were the centre of attention last Thursday as the Olympic flame visited Worcestershire on day six of its 70-day journey around the country before arriving in London to mark the beginning of the 2012 Olympic games. The flame was being transported by train – the Worcestershire Express – on the Severn Valley Railway from Bewdley, past the elephant reserve at West Midland Safari Park and onward to Kidderminster Station.
John Penrose MP, Minister for Tourism and Heritage, who had already visited West Midland Safari Park earlier in the day for a “Meet the Industry Event”, joined the entourage and travelled along with the flame on the footplate of the steam train. And, to make sure that eles and engine were in perfect harmony for the big day, at precisely 9.45am each morning for the past three weeks African elephants ‘Five’ and ‘Latabe’ have been patrolling their 5- acre reserve, which borders the Severn Valley Railway track, along with their keepers to await the arrival of the ‘practice’ engine. In collaboration with staff at the Severn Valley Railway, the practice engine stopped for a few minutes and then moved off – to allow both elephants to get a taste of things to come.
Bob Lawrence, the Director of Wildlife at West Midland Safari Park said, “Whilst both elephants are quite used to having their photo taken by the thousands of visitors that come to see them each year and to the trains that pass their paddocks most days, to have such a welcome party, flag waving and excitement this time around, they did seem to wonder what all the fuss was about. Nonetheless, Five and Latabe joined in perfectly, waved a flag and really appeared to enjoy themselves. This was a marvelous experience for all involved and something that will be remembered for years to come”.
The elephants arrived at West Midland Safari Park in 1998, when they were just five years old. They were orphans that had been hand reared in a private elephant orphanage in Pretoria, South Africa, following the shooting of their mothers at a few days old. As they outgrew the orphanage, West Midland Safari Park was delighted to give them a home.
Five and Latabe can be seen daily in Elephant Valley at West Midland Safari & Leisure Park which is open 7 days until Friday, 2nd November 2012 and included as part of the standard admission charge of £14.99 for adults, £12.99 for children. Admission prices also include a free return ticket. Amusement rides charged extra in all cases.