Okay, I know I have said it before, but I have to say it again—I love this job! Not only do I get to tell everyone about the coolest new exhibit coming to the San Diego Zoo, but I also get to tell everyone about our newest baby! Of course, to do that I need to know as much as possible about the little guy and that means going to the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park!
That’s right, our male baby African elephant was born on March 13 at 3:15 in the morning. He is doing very well, and yes, he’s terribly cute. You can see him with mom Umngani and older sister Khosi.
While visiting, I was able to talk to some of the staff to find out how the little guy is doing. I found out that there is more going on than meets the eye. Sure, when we go to the Wild Animal Park to visit them, we see a very cute baby, a proud older sister, and a very gentle mother. You may even notice a small shelter for humans set up over a table with clipboard, watches, and paperwork. Amazingly enough, for a couple of weeks prior to the birth, the dedicated staff had been watching over the expectant mother 24 hours a day. Now, after the birth, 24-hour watches will continue for at least another 5 weeks!
The observations conducted by the animal care staff collect information on frequency of nursing, interaction with others, developmental behavior, and so much more. Also pertinent to their documentation is what they call “significant first occurrences.” These include the first time he tried to stand, the first time he actually did stand, the first time he tried to nurse, the first time he actually did nurse, and so on. It becomes an astoundingly massive pool of information that is added to similar documentation collected from previous births. All of those facts and figures are then compared with data that have been collected on baby elephants born in Africa to gauge the growth trajectories and health of the youngsters.
Whew! And to think you thought he was just a cute baby!
Now that you know about some of the “behind the scenes” work of our devoted staff of keepers and researchers, here are some fun facts about our new baby boy:
*He was born March 13, at 3:15 a.m. By the way, did you know that March 13 happens to be National Elephant Day in Thailand? It is! AND another fun fact, on March 13 of 1897, San Diego State University was founded!
*His birth weight was103 kilograms (about 226 pounds).
*He nurses regularly, and if you add up the total time of nursing that occurs in 24 hours it would be 2 hours!
*He continues to do very well, and he and the whole herd can already be seen out on exhibit in the main yard, so come by the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park and bring your camera!
Rick Schwartz is the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey Ambassador.
Read Rick’s previous blog, Elephants: A Zoo Family.