Belgium’s First-Born Elephant Welcomes First Calf


Planckendael’s famous Asian Elephant, Kai-Mook, recently gave birth to her first calf! Zoo staff shared that the much-anticipated baby made his entrance into the world sometime between the late hours of January 12 and early January 13.

According to keepers, the baby has a head of hair and has already exceeded the size of his niece, Suki, who was born on Christmas Day. During the delivery, the Zoo’s other female elephants provided support for Kai-Mook, just as they do in the wild.

Kai-Mook was pregnant for a total of 630 days. The baby was soon on his feet after the delivery and has been very active. The calf is very inquisitive, and Kai Mook is proving to be a caring mother to her baby. Zookeepers have not yet confirmed, but they suspect the calf is a boy. If this is the case, he will one day be an important and valuable candidate for the breeding program of the endangered Asian Elephant.

Zoo Coordinator, Ben, related after the birth: "[The calf] is a solid 100 kilos. I am very happy that everything went perfectly… a healthy elephant here…It can now grow together with our Christmas elephant, Suki.”


3_PL_KaiMookMama_13jan18_JonasVerhulst-5Photo Credits: KMDA / Planckendael 

New mother, Kai-Mook, was born at ZOO Antwerp on May 17, 2009. She was the first elephant born in Belgium, and according to the Zoo, the whole country was “upside down” and in a festive mood at news of her birth almost a decade ago.

Asian Elephants at Planckendael are given Asian-inspired names. Kai-Mook means “pearl” and called the Christmas elephant was given the name Suki, which means “beloved”. The Zoo encourages their fans and supporters to offer name suggestions for the newest calf. The requirements are that it have an Asian influence and start with the letter “T” (each year, all babies born at the Zoo are named using the same beginning letter). Please share your suggestions via the Zoo’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #KaiMookMama. For more info, visit their website:

Planckendael plays an active role in the international breeding program for the endangered Asian Elephant. Since the birth of Kai-Mook in 2009, RZSA supports the corridor project of Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) in India. In Thirunelli Valley, in South India, human and elephants compete for the same lands: the people want to live and grow crops, the elephants like undisturbed passage, without coming into contact with conspecifics. In South India, the ANCF corridors (walking lanes) are there solely for the elephants. Elephants try to keep away from villages and this provides people with an alternative piece of land elsewhere to edit. Thus, the harmony between man and animal is restored there.

The Asian or Asiatic Elephant (Elephas maximus) is the only living species of the genus Elephas and is distributed in Southeast Asia from India and Nepal in the west to Borneo in the east. Asian Elephants are the largest living land animals in Asia.

Since 1986, the Asian Elephant has been classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. The population has declined by at least 50 percent over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years. The species is primarily threatened by loss of habitat, habitat degradation, fragmentation and poaching. In 2003, the wild population was estimated at between 41,410 and 52,345 individuals.

Baby Elephant Born on Christmas Day


The staff at Belgium’s Planckendael Animal Park received an amazing Christmas present: a female Asian Elephant was born on Christmas Day, December 25.

Female Elephant May Tagu gave birth surrounded all the females in the zoo’s Elephant herd, including her sister, Kai-Mook. Planckendael staff called this the “best conceivable delivery scenario.”

26169455_1828971157145113_6027206929366815055_nPhoto Credit: Planckendael

In Elephant society, the birth of a baby generates great excitement. Female herd members gather around the mother during childbirth and welcome the newborn by sniffing and touching the baby with their trunks. This gathering allows young females to witness childbirth and better prepare them for their future roles as mothers.

May Tagu gave birth after being pregnant for 629 days – more than 20 months. May Tagu’s newborn stood about 25 minutes after birth and held her tiny trunk in the air.

Mom and baby appear healthy, and May Tagu is a caring mother. The zoo staff are thrilled with the successful birth because May Tagu’s first baby, born about two years ago, died of liver failure shortly after birth.

The newborn’s father is Chang, who recently moved to the zoo in Copenhagen. Chang is also the father of two more baby Elephants expected to be born in the coming months at Planckendael. May Tagu’s sister, Kai-Mook, is pregnant, and Phyo Phyo, the mother of May Tagu and Kai-Mook, is also expecting a baby.

All of these young Elephants will be valuable additions to the European breeding program for this Endangered species. The wild Asian Elephant population is threatened by the degradation and fragmentation of habitat, which leads to more frequent conflicts between Elephants and people. Elephants are also illegally killed for their ivory tusks.


New Giraffe Calf Is a ‘Momma’s Boy’


Megara, a Kordofan Giraffe at Planckendael, became a first-time mom on January 19. The male calf fell to earth and stood at 1.75 meters tall (5.7 ft). According to keepers, Megara is an excellent mother and has been spending time bonding with her new calf in their warm stable.

The delivery took place at dawn, before the arrival of the keepers, but the birth was captured on the cameras installed in the birthing barn. A Giraffe birth is an extraordinary moment because the baby falls about two meters to the ground and then quickly straightens up on small, fragile legs.



4_fotolink-girafs-6Photo Credits: Planckendael / Jonas Verhulst

This is the first major newborn of 2017 for Planckendael. This birth also marks the kick-off of giving out names that begin with the letter “S”. (Each year, all newborns at the Zoo are given names that begin with the same letter.) Planckendael will soon announce the new Giraffe’s name.

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Giraffe Birth at Planckendael’s Savannah Exhibit


On June 23, Planckendael welcomed their tenth birth at their Savannah exhibit. The new male Giraffe calf entered the world at almost two meters (6.5 feet) long!

This is the fifth offspring for the experienced mother, and she has been spending quality time caring for her new calf.

Zoo Coordinator, Ben Van, said, "It is good that this is the tenth baby for our savannah. It is something to be very proud of, but we also know that it is never routine. Every birth is unique; every birth is different.”

Every year, Planckendael and ZOO Antwerp use one letter of the alphabet to help select names for the zoo babies born during the year. This year, they are using the letter “R”. A contest was recently held, and the public voted on the name “Rafiki” for the new male Giraffe calf!


3_fotolink-girafR-3Photo Credits: Planckendael / Steffanie Klaassen


Planckendael participates in the European Breeding Programme (EEP). They are also supporters of protecting and preserving the lives of the Giraffes in nature. They are proud supporters of a project in the Garamba National Park in Congo. They provide help in protecting and monitoring the endangered Kordofan Giraffes.

The Kordofan Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis antiquorum) is a subspecies found in northern Cameroon, southern Chad, Central African Republic, and possibly western Sudan. Historically, some confusion has existed over the exact range limit of this subspecies compared to the West African Giraffe. Genetic work has also revealed that all "West African Giraffe" in European zoos are in fact Kordofan Giraffe.

Compared to most other subspecies, the Kordofan Giraffe has relatively small, more irregular spots on the inner legs. Its English name is a reference to Kordofan in Sudan (also spelled Kordofan, it is a former province of central Sudan).


Curious Cubs Explore at Planckendael


An Asiatic Lioness named Lorena gave birth to three adorable cubs on January 25, at Planckendael Zoo. This is the first litter for Lorena, and the two boys and one girl recently explored their outdoor exhibit for the first time.

Lorena was seen taking her children by the scruff of the neck in an effort to keep them in line. These mini-lions are not only cute and beautiful, but they are also very curious. They are attracted to adventure, and do so with the craziest antics. It will be a busy period for mom Lorena.

They were also recently given names: the boys are called Raman and Ravi, and the girl was named Rani.



4_Fotolink_welpen-3Photo Credits: Planckendael / Jonas Verhulst


Mom Lorena was also born at Planckendael. She was one of five cubs born to mom Kolya in 2010, and she has now taken over the role of ‘Mother Hen’, previously held by her mother. New dad, Jari, has been at Planckendael since 2014.

The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica), also known as the Indian lion or Persian lion, is a lion subspecies that exists as a single population in India's Gujarat state.

The Asiatic Lion was first described by the Austrian zoologist Johann N. Meyer under the trinomen Felis leo persicus.

The Asiatic lion is one of five big cat species found in India, along with the Bengal Tiger, Indian Leopard, Snow Leopard and Clouded Leopard. It formerly occurred in Southeastern Europe, Black Sea Basin, Caucasus, Persia, Canaan, Mesopotamia, Baluchistan, from Sindh in the west to Bengal in the east, and from Rampur and Rohilkund in the north to Nerbudda in the south. It differs from the African Lion by less inflated auditory bullae, a larger tail tuft and a less developed mane.

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Herd Trumpets Baby Elephant's Arrival

A baby Asian Elephant arrived to the sound of a trumpeting herd on June 16 at Planckendael in Belgium.

Baby-olifant-qiyo-planckendael-jonas-verhulst5Photo Credit:  Jonas Verhulst


Mom Phyo Phyo delivered her female calf, named Qiyo, surrounded by her five female herdmates and offspring in a special sand-floored stable in the zoo’s Elephant barn.  This scenario mimics the way Elephants deliver their calves in the wild.

In the video below, you can hear loud trumpeting as the calf falls to the ground amid the birth fluids. Her arrival causes quite a stir as the other Elephants reach out to touch the newborn with their trunks.

Phyo Phyo had a normal 22-month-long pregnancy, and her experience rearing four other calves is a huge advantage for the new baby.  Within just 15 minutes, Qiyo stood on her shaky legs, and just a half hour later, she was nursing.  Zoo keepers estimate Qiyo’s birth weight at about 190 pounds.

Phyo Phyo is an excellent mother and protects Qiyo from the zoo’s two playful and curious juvenile Elephants, Kai-Mook and May Tagu. By having the other female Elephants present at the birth, their chances of successfully caring for their own future babies is greatly increased.

Qiyo’s father, Chang, was not present for the birth, which is just as it would be in nature.  Chang is a gentle Elephant and the zoo staff expects to introduce him to Qiyo very soon.

Asian Elephants are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  They survive in small fragments of forest scattered across southeast Asia.  

See more photos and video of the baby Elephant below.

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Long, Tall Baby Born at Planckendael

10959667_871843349524570_4741286656375262046_nPlanckendael Zoo, in Belgium, recently witnessed the birth of the largest animal ever born at the zoo.




Photo Credits: Planckendael

On February 7th, ‘Diamond’ gave birth to a boy who measured just a little over 6 ½ feet! Mother and baby are doing well, and the newcomer is fitting right in with the rest of the herd at the zoo.

(More great photos, below the fold!)

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Giraffe Born on Valentine's Day Has a Heart-shaped Spot


A baby Giraffe born on Valentine’s Day at Belgium’s Planckendael Zoo bears a very special birthmark – a heart-shaped spot on the haunches!

Photo Credit: Planckendael / Steffanie Klaassen

Zoo keepers knew that female Giraffe Barbie was about to give birth sometime around February 14, so they separated her from the herd and set up a closed-circuit camera to keep watch through the night.  Barbie is an experienced mother, having delivered three other calves, and the entire birth process went smoothly.  Zoo keepers were thrilled to see the newborn stand and begin nursing right on schedule.  Barbie licked her newborn clean as it stood on long, wobbly legs. 

The baby’s gender has not yet been confirmed, so zoo keepers have not yet named the calf.  All babies born at Planckendael in 2014 will have names beginning with the letter P, so zoo keepers are searching for beautiful African names that begin with P.

Barbie and her newborn will remain indoors for a few weeks until warmer temperatures arrive.  Planckendael participates in the European breeding program for Giraffes and supports in situ conservation efforts in Niger.

See more photos of the baby Giraffe below the fold.

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Zebra Plays Outside for the First Time at Planckendael

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A newborn Grevy's Zebra colt has joined the herd at Planckendael in Belgium! The colt, born December 2, has been named Oscar. He joins a herd of eight other Zebras, including his year-old sister Noni, mom Betina, and father Chris.

Grevy's Zebras, also known as Imperial Zebras, are the world's largest living species of horse. These horses are territorial and live in small groups that consist of a several females and one dominant male. Non-dominant males form separate 'bachelor' groups. Individual Zebras have stripe patterns on their hind legs that are as unique as a human's fingerprint.

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5 zebraPhoto credit: Planckendael Zoo

Grevy's Zebras are the most Endangered of the three species of Zebra, with an estimated 2,500 individuals left in Ethiopia and northern Kenya. Over the past 30 years, their numbers have decreased by 80 percent. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, these Zebras have undergone one of the greatest reductions in habitat range of any African mammal. This habitat loss and degradation is largely due to overgrazing by livestock. Zebras are forced to compete with livestock not just for food but also for limited sources of water. They are also threatened by poaching and disease. 

Zoo Planckendael participates in the European breeding program to conserve this species, and also supports the Marwell Wildlife conservation project in Kenya. Using transmitters attached to collars, the group collects data on the movements and territories of wild Zebras in order to set up effective management and conservation strategies to save the species.