A Big Delivery: Elephant Calf Born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

New Elephant Birth Is Second at Safari Park in Less Than Two Months

Elephant keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park received a big surprise when they came in to work this morning (Sept. 27, 2018.) Umngani (pronounced OOM-gah-nee), a 28-year-old elephant, had given birth to a healthy, 281-pound female calf—the biggest calf ever to be born at the Safari Park. A newborn calf generally weighs 200 to 268 pounds at birth. While keepers were anticipating the birth—the average gestation period for African elephants is 649 days, or 22 months—it came a little earlier than they had expected.

“Knowing Umngani’s birth window was between Sept. 12 and Oct. 18, we had been placing her in a small area of the yard at night, separate from the rest of the herd,” said Curtis Lehman, animal care supervisor at the Safari Park. “She has given birth three other times, and those calves arrived late—so when we checked on her first thing this morning, we were surprised and thrilled to see her caring for her healthy newborn. Umngani is a great mom, and she and the baby are doing very well.”

Recorded by security cameras, Umngani gave birth without complications at 11:20 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26. The calf, yet to be named, began nursing shortly after it was born.

By late morning, with the baby appearing healthy and well bonded to her mother, animal care staff offered the pair the opportunity to move into a larger area of the habitat with Umngani’s other three offspring: 7-year-old male Inhlonipho or “Neepo” (with whom the new calf shares a birthday); 9-year-old male Ingadze or “Gadze” and 12-year-old female Khosi. The new calf was also introduced to 8-year-old male Emanti and 11-year-old female Phakamile or “Kami.” The other elephants appeared very excited to meet the new baby—rushing to her, and touching and smelling her with their trunks, all under the watchful eye of her protective mother. The new calf will be introduced to the remainder of the herd within the next day or so—including another calf, a little male named Umzuli-Zuli or “Zuli,” born Aug. 12 to mother Ndula.

The new calf and her herd may be seen at the Safari Park’s elephant habitat and also on the Safari Park’s Elephant Cam.

The Safari Park is now home to 14 elephants—four adults and 10 youngsters. The adults were rescued in 2003 from the Kingdom of Swaziland, where they had 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.