The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is proud to announce that the newest baby elephant born at the Park has been named Mkhaya. The youngest member of the herd—born Sept. 26 to mother Umngani (pronounced OOM-gah-nee)—was named for Mkhaya, a wildlife reserve in the southern African nation of Swaziland. The name follows the Safari Park’s tradition of naming African elephants using Swahili-based words.
The youngster’s name was selected after consultation with wildlife experts in Kenya. “I find the name Mkhaya well fitting, as it agrees with our naming considerations linked to place of rescue,” said Paul Leringato, chief executive officer of the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary. “Because its mother is from Swaziland, the naming tells a good story.”
San Diego Zoo Global collaborates with the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Africa, which operates a community-based elephant orphanage that cares for injured and orphaned elephants in the Namunyuk region of Kenya. Many of the orphan elephant calves at the community-run center are given Swahili-based names derived from the areas where they were found.
Collaboration on naming is not the only way the two populations of elephants—at the Safari Park and in Kenya—influence each other. The recent births of two elephants at the Safari Park provide an opportunity for animal care experts in San Diego and in Africa to share information about growth rates, nutrition and maternal care, to help improve animal care and conservation efforts in both countries.
At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, little Mkhaya (nicknamed “Kaia”) joins a herd of 13 other elephants—four adults and 9 youngsters. The adults were rescued in 2003 from Swaziland, where they had faced being culled due to challenges related to reduced habitat. The two new calves and their herd may be seen at the Safari Park’s elephant habitat and on the Safari Park’s Elephant Cam, at sdzsafaripark.org/elephant-cam.