Planckendael’s famous Asian Elephant, Kai-Mook, gave birth to her first calf on Saturday, January 13.
The playful, little female was recently given a name during a very special ceremony at Planckendael. The calf was given the name Tun Kai: ‘Tun’ means Saturday and refers to the day of her birth, and ‘Kai’ in honor of her mother.
This beautiful name was presented during a traditional Indian naming ceremony, during which the Indian priest Chandrakant of the BAPS Temple in Antwerp whispered the name in the calf’s ear. The special ceremony was in accordance with the tradition of Kerala, India, when a baby has his or her name whispered to them 28 days after their birth.
Planckendael asked fans to submit ideas for the name that would be given to the new elephant, and the Zoo received more than 1,700 suggestions. Finally, keepers agreed upon the name that was chosen.
(ZooBorns featured news of the birth in a January 15 article: "Belgium’s First-Born Elephant Welcomes First Calf")
First-time 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.
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.