You May Call Her Qinisa

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Little elephant Qinisa is one cute girl!

You can stop calling her baby girl or not! But if you want to call the Safari Park’s female African elephant calf, who was born on August 28, with her official name, here it is: Qinisa, a Siswati word that means to act with energy, act determinedly, fulfill one’s word, or speak the truth. The name is pronounced (!) EEN-EE-seh (! is a tongue pop instead of a q sound).

Her name is very fitting, as Qinisa has been determined (successfully, I might add!) to develop fastest of the 12 calves born to the herd of African elephants at the Safari Park. At only one-week-old she was sucking water into her trunk and using it to pick up objects like sticks. I watched Qinisa do that today, and she sure seemed like a pro! This dexterity has not been seen at such a young age, according to Curtis Lehman, San Diego Zoo Safari Park animal care manager. This skill had been documented after a couple of weeks of age among the other calves.

She has mastered her nursing technique!

Qinisa seems to be spending the least amount of time nursing compared to the others, but she obviously seems to be getting more than enough milk from her mother, Swazi! Curtis thinks she may have also mastered how to nurse quickly, since she is averaging a weight gain of 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) per day. The calf has gained 40 pounds (18 kilograms) in her first 21 days of life. She’s growing much too quickly for my personal taste, but just right for normal calf development.

The Elephant Team is still documenting Qinisa’s developments. They were out today with clipboard in hand taking notes every time she nursed. Beside her quick learning curve, they also observe how other elephants interact with her. The other elephants interact with Qinisa whenever Swazi allows it. Big brother Mac is playing nice; then again, he’d better, or Mom would have a word or two with him. Apparently, the adult females only interact occasionally, since they know to keep their distance from a protective Swazi, the herd’s matriarch.

But our two young female baby-sitters, 6-year-old Khosi and 5-year-old Kami, seem to have the most access to the calf and continue to compete for baby-sitting rights. Kami and Emanti get to hang out with the trio of Swazi, Mac, and Qinisa overnight, so Kami has the upper hand to get more baby-sitting time. Kami was never far away from Qinisa while I watched this morning. She was so gentle with the calf, I couldn’t help but smile. Swazi seems to now be taking advantage of the two baby-sitters and wanders away from Qinisa when she naps, but not for long. If Qinisa wakes, Swazi comes back quickly.

Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global.