Escondido, California - Animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are celebrating the birth of a baby elephant, born just before midnight Sunday night, on World Elephant Day to mother Ndlulamitsi, better known as “Ndlula.” The calf, a male, was born without complications and began nursing shortly after birth.
“Mother and baby were in a small area of the yard, separate from the rest of the herd,” said Curtis Lehman, animal care supervisor at the Safari Park. “This separation, much like what would occur in natural habitats in Africa, allows mom and baby time for bonding.”
The baby elephant, named Umzula-zuli, was weighed this morning by animal care staff and tipped the scales at more than 270 pounds—making him the largest elephant calf ever born at the Safari Park. A newborn calf generally weights 200 to 268 pounds at birth. By late morning, with the baby appearing healthy and well bonded to his mother, animal care staff offered the pair the opportunity to move into a larger area of the habitat with the rest of the herd.
“This morning’s introduction of ‘Zuli’ to the other 12 elephants in the herd was one of the most endearing animal scenes I have had the privilege of seeing,” said Mindy Albright, lead keeper, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “The other elephants were clearly excited to meet the new baby—touching him, trumpeting and smelling him with their trunks.”
The average gestation period for African elephants is 649 days, or 22 months; so, Zuli’s birth had been long anticipated. When the Park opened at 9 a.m., guests at the African elephant overlook were able to see Ndlula and her newborn interacting with the herd. The new baby and his herd may also be seen on the Safari Park’s Elephant Cam, at sdzsafaripark.org/elephant-cam.
The Safari Park is now home to 13 elephants—4 adults and 9 youngsters. The adults were rescued in 2003 from the Kingdom of Swaziland, where they faced being culled. A lack of space and long periods of drought had created unsuitable habitat for a large elephant population in the small southern African country. At the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, elephant studies are underway on nutrition, daily walking distance, growth and development, and bioacoustic communication. Since 2004, San Diego Zoo Global has contributed $30,000 yearly to Swaziland’s Big Game Parks to fund programs like anti-poaching patrols, improve infrastructure and purchase additional acreage for the Big Game Parks.
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.