We've seen a lot of elephant action this year, in particular from Taronga Zoo. Now, San Diego Zoo is in line for a hat trick of baby African elephants! This unnamed male calf was born on Thursday to 20-year-old Swazi. A male calf born two months ago, on Valentine’s Day, was recently bestowed a very fitting name: Lutsandvo (loot-sund-vor), or "love" in the SiSwati language.
The elephant herd has nearly doubled its size since the eight adults were rescued from the Kingdom of Swaziland, a small southern African country, where they faced being killed because elephant overpopulation was destroying its habitat. The herd has successfully given birth to seven calves since the adults arrived at the Wild Animal Park in 2003.
This summer the Park is celebrating the success of the herd by embracing the spirit of Africa. Join zookeepers daily at 11 a.m. to watch the elephants search their 3-acre habitat seeking goodies hidden in the grass, trees or rocks. New activities are planned throughout the Park as well as a new animal show during African Festival, running June 19 through September 6.
The San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park are committed to elephant conservation by educating visitors to both parks and by conducting elephant studies on nutrition, daily walking distance, growth and development and bioacoustic communication. In Africa, the Zoo has a researcher studying human-elephant conflicts as well as habitat range and use. In 2004, the Zoo committed to contributing $30,000 yearly to Swaziland’s Big Game Parks though 2014 to fund programs like anti-poaching patrols, improved infrastructure and the purchase of additional acreage for the Big Game Parks. In addition, the Zoo supports other elephant conservation projects through donations to the International Elephant Foundation, an organization that funds these types of projects around the world.
The average gestation period for African elephants is 649 days or 22 months. A newborn calf is about three feet tall and averages 200 to 250 pounds. Calves can be weaned at 2 to 3 years old.
An adult African elephant is larger than its cousin, the Asian elephant. A male African elephant weighs 7 to 8 tons and can stand about 10.5 feet tall at the shoulders; a female can weigh approximately four tons and stand 8.2 feet at the shoulders.
The young calf is dwarfed by the size of the other elephants, but they are very careful around him. The calf was even seen nursing from his aunties. The older calves spend time following him, touching him and trying to coax him to play. He is not yet big enough to play with the others but at 268 pounds he is the largest calf born to this herd and will catch up in size very quickly.