It has been seven months since elephant siblings Kami and Emanti lost their mother, Umoya (see post Loss to Elephant Family) Yet today, both seem to be thriving and growing at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Emanti turned 2 last month (can you believe it?!) and weighs 1,408 pounds (640 kilograms). Big sister Kami will be 5 in September; she weighs 2,666 pounds (1,212 kilograms). Thanks to Elephant Keeper Karissa Reinbold and Animal Care Manager Curtis Lehman, I am pleased to offer an update on these precocious pachyderms.
Although Kami and Emanti get along well together, Kami’s BFF is Khosi. The two females are just a year apart in age and spend most of their time together. Occasionally they get into tiffs, but what adolescent girlfriends don’t? Because Khosi helps her mother, Umngani, care for her two younger siblings, Ingadze and Neepo, Kami is right there to help her. This probably explains why Umngani is so tolerant of Kami’s presence: she’s getting extra baby-sitting service!
Emanti has become socially smart, knowing which elephants he can pal around with and which ones to leave alone. He chooses whom he hangs out with and not so much the other way around. Life as an orphan, especially a young male, probably would have a quick ending in the wild without a mother to protect him. Therefore, his keepers have to be his ultimate protectors. But they are very happy that Swazi seems to tolerate him, Macembe (Mac), who is just one month older, likes to play with him, Msholo is cool with him, and he still has a big sister to bond with. Emanti does play with the baby of the herd, Neepo, as well, and is always gentle with the little guy.
Like his mother, Emanti has always had an independent streak; he likes the food pellets the herd is fed so much that he’ll forgo all the other food items just to search for any dropped pellet! This is why he’s not with the others as much and also why he seems to refuse to head out into the yard after a training session, even when he gets first crack at the goodies.
Keepers are aware that Emanti—and even Kami—might need extra attention now and then, and they are more than willing to provide it! Sometimes they place enrichment toys in the upper yard for just the siblings to play with, and last month the duo got to enjoy Emanti’s special birthday ice cakes without them having to share with the others. Keepers also include extra training sessions for the pair, which they both seem to look forward to. Because of these additional “classes,” Emanti has now caught up to Ingadze in elephant “school.” His most recent “subjects” completed: trunk washing (saline solution is squirted into the elephant’s trunk, the trunk is raised and then lowered, the saline pours back into a receptacle, and the sample is sent to a lab for analysis), turning around, and presenting a front foot when asked. Emanti is currently learning how present his ear for a blood draw and to retrieve objects.
From what I gathered, keepers are extremely proud of his progress. Perhaps we’ll nickname him Keepers’ Boy!
Debbie Andreen is an associate editor for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Park Elephant Calves Update.