“We’ve got a problem.”
Zoe Fox looked up from her homework to see Dad frowning down at his phone. It was seven-thirty on a Friday evening in October and she was sitting with her parents around a roaring fire in the living room of Tanglewood Manor. Her little brother, Rory, was fast asleep upstairs and the animals of Tanglewood were all safely tucked up for the night. Or were they?
Zoe felt a stab of worry. Tanglewood Animal Park was home to over 350 creatures, big and small – had one of them been hurt?
Mum stopped sketching her design for a giraffe habitat. “What is it?”
Dad’s frown deepened. “How soon can you get the new elephant enclosure ready?”
Zoe blinked. Her mum had been working hard to design and oversee a large, brand-new elephant home right next door to Tanglewood’s latest expansion, the Savannah Safari. But although the building work was complete, Zoe knew there was still a lot to be done before the habitat was elephant-ready.
“Why?” Mum asked, lowering her pencil. “What’s happened?”
“I’ve just had an email from Pawprints Zoo. They’ve closed down and need to find an urgent home for their family of African elephants.”
Zoe felt her eyes widen in shock. Zoos closed down for lots of reasons, from not enough visitors to worries about safety, but it was almost always bad news for the animals who lived there. Some of them would be easy to rehouse but others – like elephants – needed a strong, purpose-built enclosure with lots of space and ditches all around to keep them inside. It wouldn’t be easy to find a home for every animal at Pawprints.
Mum shook her head. “I don’t know – it’s a bit sooner than I’d like. How many elephants do they have?”
“Six – two males and four females.” Dad glanced at Zoe. “One of the girls is an infant – only four months old.”
Zoe’s insides danced with sudden excitement. What could be cuter than a baby elephant?
“Don’t get carried away,” Mum warned her. “We don’t know if they’re coming here yet. Isn’t there anywhere else? We promised Berlin Zoo we’d take their herd, remember?”
Mr Fox checked his phone. “A few places have offered to take one or two but nowhere has room to take them all. And you know how close elephant families are – they don’t like to be separated.”
That’s true, Zoe thought, remembering a documentary she’d seen where the presenters had talked about how deeply elephants felt things like love and friendship – they even cried sometimes. And most animals struggled when they went to a new zoo – Tanglewood’s Sumatran tiger, Tindu, had taken a long time to settle in when he’d first arrived. The Pawprints elephants would find moving house even more difficult if they were apart.
“We can’t take both herds,” Dad went on. “And Pawprints needs our help most.”
“How soon do they need to move?” Mum asked.
“Next week. I don’t know the full story yet but it sounds like a real nightmare.” He paused. “So what do you think? Could we be ready in time?”
Mum let out a long sigh and rubbed her face. “I don’t think we have much choice. We can’t let them become homeless, especially not with an infant in the herd.”
“Yes!” Zoe squealed, filled with delight. “We’re going to have a baby elephant! Oh, I can’t wait to
Oliver was the son of Tanglewood’s Chief Vet, Max, and he was the same age as Zoe. She reached for her phone to send him a message, knowing he’d be just as over the moon as she was at the news.
“Hold on, Zoe,” Dad said. “It’s not agreed yet. Moving six elephants is no easy task and a lot
depends on their personalities. The elephant keeper at Pawprints has invited me and Max to visit him tomorrow – I’ll know more then.”
Zoe went very still. “Oh…can I come with you? It’s Saturday so there’s no school—”
“Zoe,” Dad interrupted, his eyebrows beetling together into a frown. “I don’t—”
“I promise I’ll be good, you won’t even know I am there,” she gabbled, pretending not to hear him. “And Oliver could come too, that way I’ll have someone to hang out with if you have things you need to do. Please, Dad.”
She held her breath as her parents exchanged a look. Long seconds ticked by, then Dad tipped his head. “I’ll need to speak to Max—”
“Yes!” Zoe clenched her hand into a triumphant fist.
“It might not be possible, Zoe,” Mum said doubtfully. “It all depends what the situation is at Pawprints. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t go after all.”
“If you do come, you’ll need to be ready early,” Dad said. “Make sure you get your Tanglewood animal duties out of the way first thing in the morning.”
Zoe tapped at her phone with feverish fingers.
“I will,” she promised. “I’m setting an alarm for six-thirty tomorrow.”
Dad announced he was going to call Max, leaving Zoe and her mum to finish their work. Zoe found
it hard to concentrate and kept picturing the cutest little elephant calf wobbling around the elephant enclosure, its trunk curled around its mother’s tail. It was very sad that they had to leave their home
at Pawprints but Zoe couldn’t help hoping they would be coming to Tanglewood, and from the sound of things, they might even arrive in time for her birthday, which was less than two weeks away. Imagine our very own baby elephant, Zoe thought, staring into the flickering flames of the fire. Oh, please let it happen!
The next morning, Zoe was up early. She dressed in a hurry and tugged her Tanglewood fleece over her head. Then she gulped down a bowl of cereal and let herself out of the back door to crunch along the gravel path that led to Tanglewood and its animals.
The sun wasn’t even peeping over the horizon and the park’s pathways were empty, but that didn’t mean Zoe was alone; each leafy enclosure she passed had a fascinating animal inside, from wolves to wallabies. Tanglewood’s main gates opened to visitors at nine-thirty but there was plenty to be done before then each morning. Zoe knew there would already be several keepers making their way around the park, taking food to their animals and pushing wheelbarrows to clean up any mess that had built up overnight. Gradually, the air became filled with the sounds of the park waking up – the ring-tailed lemurs squabbling, the gibbons whooping as they swung from rope to rope, and the mighty roar of Sinbad the lion reminding everyone he was in charge. Business as usual, Zoe thought, grinning to herself.
The guinea pigs were their usual chattering selves as Zoe set about cleaning their enclosures. They’d been one of the first animals she’d been able to get involved with when her family had bought Tanglewood and moved into the grand manor house in the centre of the park, and they were still among her favourites. She loved being able to stroke them, and she felt as if each animal was a little friend. She felt the same way about Flash, the baby zebra who’d been born not long after Zoe and her family had moved to the park, and she loved seeing him growing bigger and stronger. Tindu the tiger and Tanglewood’s other big cats were breathtaking and magnificent but she’d never be able to get close enough to touch them. Would the new baby elephant be the same?
Once the guinea pigs were safely back in their freshly tidied enclosures, Zoe checked her watch.
It was almost seven-thirty and she hadn’t heard from her dad about where to meet him for the trip to Pawprints. She knew he was probably busy around the park but she couldn’t help worrying that he might have changed his mind and gone without her.
Telling herself she was being silly, Zoe headed towards the elephant house. Work had been going on for weeks, and the finished building had heated floors and lots of natural light, plus a large grass and sand paddock outside filled with log piles and several water pools. The habitat was surrounded by deep ditches but there was a wide path which would allow the elephants to explore the fields that made up the new Savannah Safari, the entrance to which was nearby. The safari itself wasn’t quite finished – it was still closed off with big wooden fences – but once everything was ready, visitors would ride on special buses and pass large paddocks designed to mimic the animals’ habitat in the wild. Each bus would have an expert guide on board to explain what the public were seeing, and eventually there would be giraffes, rhinos and a herd of gazelles, all in their own fields. Zoe felt another thrill at the thought of even more new animals joining the Tanglewood family, but she was especially excited about the elephants.
She hurried underneath Snowy Point, where Tanglewood’s pair of snow leopards lived, and down towards the meerkat enclosure. There were more keepers around now – Zoe waved as she saw Cassie heading towards the tiger house. She spotted a few members of the gardening team clearing up the crisp tawny leaves that had fallen in the night, but there was no sign of Zoe’s dad or Max. Growing more and more fidgety as she walked, Zoe finally gave in and pulled out her phone.
Hey Dad, where are you?
Minutes ticked by. Impatient, Zoe decided to head home; maybe Dad was waiting for her there? She passed Abie, the red-panda keeper, who was on her way to give bamboo-loving Kushpu and Hardeep their breakfast, and grinned a greeting. Another time, Zoe might have stopped to help but this morning her head was filled with elephants.
Her phone buzzed as she walked. It was Dad.
Leaving for Pawprints in 30 minutes if you still want to come? Meet outside the manor.
Zoe let out a gasp of delight – if she still wanted to come? Of course she did! Stuffing her phone firmly into the pocket of her fleece, she started to run.
Tanglewood’s Savannah Safari is complete, and Zoe can’t wait to meet its newest inhabitants – six African elephants.
But when the head of the herd stops eating, Zoe and the keepers face an elephant emergency!
“Perfect for animal lovers!”
Paradise Wildlife Park
“Young animal lovers are trumpeting with excitement... Chuck Groenink and Jean Claude's enchanting illustrations add the extra "aaah" factor to this gorgeous adventure series which combines exciting adventures with real-life facts about wild creatures and is a guaranteed winner with animal lovers of every age.”
Pam Norfolk, Lancashire Post