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Elephants Start Car Wash to Help Zoo Beat Recession

Friday, 2 Oct 2009 | 3:56 PM ET

Zoos across the country have been mauled by the recession. One zoo got a few of the animals to pitch in to boost sales: The elephants started a car wash.

Elephants washing a car at Wildlife Safari.
Source: Wildlife Safari
Elephants washing a car at Wildlife Safari.

This isn’t your average zoo: Wildlife Safariis a 600-acre drive-through zoo in Winston, Oregon, modeled on the idea of an African safari. They’ve got over 600 types of animals, including elephants, giraffes, hippos, zebras and cheetahs.

The safari was already popular with cash-strapped Oregonians who opted to spend their family vacation closer to home, said Dan Van Slyke executive director of Wildlife Safari. Adding the elephant car wash gave revenue an extra boost.

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  • Elephants are really smart animals — and very playful. The elephants at the Wildlife Safari — Alice, Tiki and George — already know how to paint (you can buy one of their masterpieces in the gift shop) and one of them plays the harmonica. All three like to play in the water, so this summer, the trainers decided to teach them how to wash cars. First they suck up the water and spray it at your car — the ultimate power wash! — then they grab a sponge and dry it off.

    It’s $20 for a wash, but don’t expect your car to be clean afterward — you’re paying for the entertainment.

    “It’s guaranteed to NOT get your car clean!” Van Slyke quipped.

    But, you’ll get great reviews from the backseat — just listen to the “soundtrack” one family uploaded to YouTube of their elephant car wash. It’s nonstop giggling!

    The stunt has paid off: Park sales are up 28 percent from last year.

    Some critics have questioned whether making elephants wash cars amounts to animal cruelty. But Van Slyke says, for the elephants, it’s just playing in the water. In fact, when the girls are washing the cars and George is on break, you’ll often find him back there shooting water around just to stay in the action!

    Wow. If only your kids felt that way about chores!

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