Linseed oil gift for baby elephant
Linseed farmer Durwin Banks is used to dealing with sizeable orders but a herd of African elephants has become his biggest customer yet.
A special delivery of 25 litres of home-pressed oil from The Linseed Farm, near Horsham, West Sussex, has been delivered to Howletts Wild Animal Park as a christening present to celebrate the 13-strong herd's newest arrival.
Not-so-little Mirembe is the 22nd elephant to be born at the zoo near Canterbury, Kent, weighing a healthy 150kg when she joined her mother Tammi, and father Jums, in June.
The herd - the largest in the UK - consumes about a litre of linseed oil a day, but Mirembe will have to wait until she is on solid food before she gets a taste, a Howletts spokeswoman said.
Mr Banks said: "About two years ago, I came across a black and white picture of an elephant called Hango being oiled with linseed at London Zoo in 1936.
"A copy of the picture is one of my favourite exhibits in the Linseed and Flax Museum at the farm, which we use to tell the story of linseed.
"We don't usually recommend our customers bathe in the oil, but we do know that when we eat it every day the high levels of omega 3 in linseed helps keep our skin smooth and supple.
"Elephants cannot bathe in the winter so I understand keepers used to knead their tough skin with rags soaked in linseed oil.
"Nowadays it's added to captive elephants' daily ration to keep them healthy - so they're very similar to us from that point of view.
"It was great to hear about the new baby Mirembe. Our christening present is a 25-litre barrel of The Linseed Farm's linseed oil - enough for all the elephants."
Head elephant keeper Natalie Boyd said: "I've also seen old photographs of elephants with oil on them, particularly around the eyes.
"We don't use linseed oil on the elephants' skin, but as a supplement in their feed because there is some evidence it could prevent colic.
"Mirembe's mum Tammi and her older sisters Jara, Uzuri and Manzi have about 280ml a day between them."