All Things Zuli

Zuli has definitely been living up to his name! His full name, Umzula-zuli, means wanderer and this precious pachyderm has certainly done his fair share of wandering during the past five weeks. He spends most of his time with his mom Ndula, but also enjoys wandering off with his sisters/babysitters! Khosi, Kami, and Qinisa have gladly been taking over babysitting duties while mom enjoys a snack or some rest. Khosi is never far from Zuli and even tries to nurse him, even though she isn’t producing milk. This experience for Khosi, Kami, and Qinisa is an amazing learning opportunity for when the time comes for them to have their own calves.

Zuli has been nursing and growing like a champ! He nurses from Ndula for up to an hour a day and is gaining 2 to 4 pounds a day. He is getting very strong and loves to show his strength by wrestling with hay cubes and his favorite “opponent,” the hay ball! You might see Zuli climbing and pushing on these items while his mom tries to eat from them. Sometimes the hay ball even swings around and pushes back!

Along with his wrestling skills, Zuli is also mastering the art of using his trunk! He loves to use his trunk to carry browse pieces just like his mom! He can be seen carrying these proudly around the elephant yards. Although he isn’t eating solid food yet, Zuli also practices his fine trunk-muscle skills by picking up small pieces of produce. He sometimes even face plants into the pile to get a piece. Zuli is especially excited over water. He uses his trunk to slurp up water then blows it into his mouth. This is excellent practice for when he is older and drinking about 20 to 50 gallons a day!

Zuli has been having the best time interacting with his herd. He has now been in both of our main yards, where he runs from family member to family member. He even interacts with our bull elephant Msholo, who sometimes gets startled as Zuli zooms by. The entire herd has been coming together to ensure that Zuli is well taken care of as he is a very important asset to the herd’s future.

Working with Zuli has been an amazing experience. He now seeks out keeper attention and loves interacting with us while mom Ndula gets her training sessions. We are starting to build our trust based relationship with him through play with a hose or browse pieces, ear scratches (which he really loves!), and rubdowns. We will continue to build our relationship with Zuli through positive reinforcement as he grows and we can’t wait to watch his fun, sassy personality develop even more.

Lauren Coates is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.