Herd Happenings

Those who watch Elephant Cam may have noticed changes lately as some of our male elephants moved to other locations.

So, how are the remaining nine Safari Park elephants doing? Just fine! Life just moves on, day by day, and animals quickly adapt to the conditions the day presents—whatever our keepers come up with for the day and the social groupings that form for the night.

We find that animals live for “now,” in the moment. If you really think about it, in the wild, an animal that is not alert to its present surroundings usually ends up eaten by a predator that is. Animals do not or cannot afford to “reminisce,” or to think about an animal that is no longer presently in their midst, so they quickly adapt to what is occurring in front of them, in real time.

With that said, with our four juvenile boys gone and the Big Guy out of the picture, the other elephants are simply adjusting to life without them. We observe the herd behavior daily and keep close watch as to how the three adult females interact toward each other and toward the remaining sub-adults, juveniles, and almost-one-year-olds. So far, nothing’s out of the ordinary and things are right in line with our expectations.

The herd is without an adult bull for the first time, so we will have to see how the three adult females deal with the current hierarchy, and let it play itself out over time. In the meantime, the keepers have more time to catch up on the training of the elephants, especially the two kids. We also get more time to enjoy observing the herd, which always includes Zuli and Mkhaya’s antics!

Emanti and Mac are doing well at the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas. Their keepers told me that they both usually go into their main yard pool around 11-ish every day for some sparring. Great way to play and cool off! They are out with 42-year-old Tonya every day as well.

Ingadze and Luti have been introduced to Bulwagi, Birmingham Zoo’s 38-year-old bull African elephant bull. They are both doing well and enjoy exploring their new Trails of Africa home. They have a huge, lush main yard (and their barns are also rather massive), two pools to cool off in, lots of natural grass to graze, and a really mellow adult bull to socialize with and learn from.

Msholo has not been formally introduced to the two 36-year-old females Tara and Kelly just yet, as his new home at Zoo Atlanta’s brand spanking new African Savanna exhibit just opened its doors to the public. Tara and Kelly are checking out their new digs first. Eventually Msholo will do the same, and then formal introductions will commence. Msholo’s new barn is the biggest elephant barn I’ve ever seen, and their new outdoor habitat is gorgeous. There is one long and big yard in the background with a really cool waterfall feature. The main yard in front of that yard is gigantic and has a pool that has a 360-degree access feature, and there is a cool waterfall at the opposite end of the yard. Lots of space to roam, explore, and eat any trees or bushes within his reach!

For those of you wondering: yes, of course, we miss all five of those boys. But on the flip side, their new homes each have an entire staff that gets to fall in love with them—and they have! Also, guests in three other parts of the country get to see them and fall in love with them, as well; “our guys” are making new friends and touching new hearts. They have and will continue to adapt to this new chapter in their life, and we will formally check in on them from time to time to see how they are doing.

Meanwhile, back here at the Safari Park, there are no planned elephant moves in or out on the horizon. Hopefully, construction will start soon that will add additional shade and heat structures to both main yards before winter comes. In the meantime, the elephants get more opportunities to roam overnight with the channel open to both yards, and we get to clean a lot less poop and spend more time training, playing with, and observing our dynamic herd. Watch Elephant Cam to see action yourself, and join us (in person or via the cam) on August 12 as we celebrate World Elephant Day—and Zuli’s first birthday!

Curtis Lehman is an animal care supervisor at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.