I guess now is as good a time as any for a quick update on our three little munchkins, all born this year to the African elephant herd at the Wild Animal Park. (Read Curtis’ previous post, A May Elephant Baby.)
Lutsandvo, aka Looty, is now 4 months old and 480 pounds (218 kilograms). Could he be any cuter? He’s currently just about everybody’s favorite baby. Looty’s at that phase where he always comes over to us and solicits attention, and who are we to deny it? He loves to suck on our fingers and have his tongue scratched.
You’d think his personality would make him a perfect training candidate when it comes to being weighed, but it’s just the opposite: chewing on a fence is more reinforcing to him than following his keeper to get onto the scale. We always have to walk his mother, Ndlula, over the scale first and hope he stops on the scale when he decides to look for Mom. Everything in his world is when he decides it!
Looty’s favorite elephant playmate is Ingadze, now 15 months old; they both constantly wrestle and play together. He’s very social, a lot like Khosi was when she was younger. You can tell he’s very comfortable with his surroundings and acts like he owns the place. He’s eating a little browse, hay, and pellets now, so he’s coming along just fine. Big brother ‘Musi has been nice to him, and he still enjoys “nursing” off of Lungile. I’ve even seen him having shoving matches with Swazi’s baby over Lungile’s mammaries (Lungile is very tolerant). Looty is very entertaining to watch!
Swazi’s baby, born in April, is already 405 pounds (184 kilograms). He’s very tall looking, long-legged like his mom. This little guy is very independent and loves to hang out with his dad, Mabu, and yes, he still “nurses” off of him. Trying to get him to stay close to Mom when we need to separate her from the herd is a big challenge for us. He’s either with Lungile or with Mabu, and his mother isn’t as sharp with the concept of having her baby nearby like Moya is with her baby. For instance, Keith (one of our keepers) can say to Moya, “Go get ‘im,” and Moya will turn and go get her son and return with him. If we say to Swazi, “Go get ‘im,” she looks at you as if to say “Get who?” We actually have to walk Swazi over to the vicinity of her calf and hope that he decides to join her before proceeding forward with our plans.
Swazi’s calf will also sleep anywhere he decides to plop down. I’ve seen him all alone in the dirt in full sunlight. Who needs shade? Unlike Lutsandvo, he weighs himself. As soon as we open a gate to have access to the scale, he pretty much runs in and stands on the scale. He also enjoys playing with Ingadze but is currently starting to hang out with Looty more and more each day. With his personality and his mom being the dominant female, you can tell that someday he will own the place.
Umoya’s baby, born in May, is now 277 pounds (126 kilograms) and has graduated from our 5-week, 24-hour baby watch that we’ve done with all our calves. He still loves water. If we want to weigh him, all we need is a hose. He likes it when we squirt the water directly into his mouth, just like Cha Cha, our Asian elephant that’s now at the Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey. Moya’s boy thinks his big sister, Kami, is great, and she lets him head-butt her like she used to let Ingadze and Lutsandvo do. He’s playing more and more with his little half brothers and hangs out with them at the small drinker. We’ve seen him doggy-paddle in the big pool with Mom twice already. I told you he loves water. Umoya’s incision has almost completely healed, by the way. So there you have it: Ingadze has three new playmates. Let’s get ready to rummmble!
Curtis Lehman is a animal care manager at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park.
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