The National Zoo’s pandas get plenty of attention, but now an elephant with an ear for music is ready to take the spotlight.
Shanthi, a 36-year-old Asian elephant, has taken a keen interest in playing the harmonica, horns and other instruments attached to her stall.
The zoo installed the set of instruments after elephant keeper Debbie Flinkman noticed that Shanthi was “musically inclined.”
“She likes to tap on things with the tip of her trunk,” said Flinkman in a video released by the zoo on Wednesday. “She likes to flap her ears against things that make noise... So we thought, why not go to harmonicas and horns and toys that she could blow and make sound with.”
Flinkman said that Shanthi enjoys playing the various instruments, especially the harmonica, and does so without prompting from zoo staff.
The zookeepers have even noticed a discernible pattern to Shanthi’s songwriting: The original ditties always have a beginning, middle, and an end characterized by a big crescendo.
Visitors can sometimes hear Shanthi’s musical stylings during the zoo’s elephant demonstrations.