There were undoubtedly a few water pistols unwrapped from under the tree yesterday, but Kashin could go one better. The Asian elephant would gleefully hoover up water with her trunk and splash it over herself or her unsuspecting elephant friend Burma.

"She would sometimes also squirt Burma, with the full knowledge that Burma didn't like water so much," says Andrew Coers, Auckland Zoo's elephant team leader.

Kashin lived at Auckland Zoo from 1972 to her death in August 2009, aged 40.

Zookeeper Wayne Smith persuaded Kashin to take a walk in the rain for this shot from March 18, 1980, but opted to stay dry himself.

Coers says zookeepers, like mahmouts in Asia, have always ridden elephants. "It is an activity that helps create strong bonds," he says.

Kashin had several places to wallow at the zoo. If she tired of her own pool, she could swim in the lion and hippo moats (when the they were not at home) or at the zoo's central lake.

And, yes, those cartoons are correct. An elephant can use its trunk like a snorkel. Despite their bulk, elephants are very good swimmers..

As well as making a handy snorkel and hose, Kashin's trunk came in handy for greeting people.

"She'd always put her trunk out - the equivalent of a handshake and she'd want to smell new people," says Coers, who worked with Kashin for 12 years.

Kashin is buried in an off-display area at the back of the zoo. To mark the spot, there is a special memorial plaque and seat.

This year, to commemorate the first anniversary of Kashin's death, the zoo held a "Celebrating Kashin" day on August 28, which helped raise more than $20,000 for the zoo's fund to support the conservation of elephants in the wild.

Burma is the zoo's only elephant but there are long-term plans to build a sustainable herd of 10 elephants. The zoo is on the lookout for up to three male elephants to provide Burma with companionship.