Night Safari’s largest baby of the year officially has a name. Neha, which means love in Hindi, is the chosen moniker for the park’s lovely five-month old baby Asian Elephant!
The calf tugged hearts all over the Internet when she debuted in her colorful play pool earlier this year.
In addition to her daily routine of morning walks, naps and playtime with her favorite Elephant aunty, Tun, Neha has recently discovered a rather messy way to fill her afternoons – gleefully scaling the mud mountain, in her exhibit, with unadulterated joy!
Her infectious joy almost always prompts the other adult females to join in, leaving them all dolled-up in an orange sheen, in time to welcome guests to Night Safari when dusk falls.
While mom’s milk continues to make up her staple diet, Neha has started trying to munch on bananas as she experiments on solid food. She has been steadily gaining weight at a rate of 1-2kg daily (normal for an Elephant), and is now 352kg, more than double her weight at birth. Her human carers say she is an exceedingly playful and carefree elephant.
Neha is the offspring of Chawang and Sri Nandong. She is the youngest of six Asian Elephants (two males and four females), which call Singapore’s Night Safari home.
The Asian or Asiatic Elephant (Elephas maximus) is the only living species of the genus Elephas and is native to Southeast Asia from India in the west to Borneo in the east. Three subspecies are recognized: E. m. maximus from Sri Lanka, the E. m. indicus from mainland Asia, and E. m. sumatranus from the island of Sumatra. Asian Elephants are the largest living land animals in Asia.
Since 1986, E. maximus has been listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations (estimated to be 60–75 years). Asian Elephants are primarily threatened by degradation, fragmentation and loss of habitat, and poaching.
In general, the Asian Elephant is smaller than the African Elephant and has the highest body point on the head. The back is convex or level. The ears are small with dorsal borders folded laterally. It has up to 20 pairs of ribs and 34 caudal vertebrae. The feet have more nail-like structures than those of African Elephant: five on each forefoot, and four on each hind foot.
To support the conservation of this majestic species, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) plays an active role on the steering committee of the Asian Captive Elephant Working Group, and was instrumental in setting up the Asian Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus Taskforce. In addition, WRS has funded field projects for Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME) in Malaysia and ElefantAsia in Laos, and currently supports the work of the Elephant Response Unit in Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra.