Belgium’s First-Born Elephant Welcomes First Calf
January 15, 2018
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.”
Photo 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: www.planckendael.be
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.