Elephants

Elephants

116

Pumpkin Fun for Elephants

Emanti prepares to dunk his pumpkin.

Emanti prepares to dunk his pumpkin.

As the days grow shorter, the nights grow longer, it is finally harvest time! Pumpkins are carved out and are available for elephant enrichment. The keepers decided to give the elephants a pumpkin party in the afternoon yesterday, October 30, 2013. Pumpkins were placed in the East Yard; some are empty but others are stuffed with alfalfa pellets. Also, there were frozen juice pops and alfalfa flakes hidden everywhere!

How about a pumpkin toss, Kami?

How about a pumpkin toss, Kami?

Umngani found her pumpkins right away with Inhlonipho following close behind her. Msholo loves pumpkins, so he smashed and ate his pretty quickly. A couple of them rolled into the pool, and he went right in to eat them in the water. Emanti kicked one around, but he was only interested in the pellets inside.

Little Qinisa was running around trying to keep track of everybody, but in the end, she ran down to join her mom, Swazi, in eating a pumpkin that had rolled down near the pool. The other members of the herd went off on their separate ways to find frozen pops and alfalfa. In the end, all had their fair share of fun, including us keepers!

Laura Price is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, 7th Birthday for Khosi.

115

Update on Elephant Vusmusi

Vusmusi takes a stroll.

Vusmusi takes a stroll.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Elephant Msholo: Day & Night, our oldest calf, Vusmusi, loves to play fight through the cables/chains/gates/barriers. He’ll even antagonize Swazi as well as his own mother, Ndula, when there’s a single barrier between them.

Because nine-year-old “Moose” pesters Umngani and her clan whenever he has his mother in the same yard with him, we like to give Umngani and her kids a break from the both of them as much as possible. Whenever it’s just one of them (Moose or Ndlula), and we have Swazi and her clan in with Umngani, things remain rather peaceful along the social front. When Moose or Ndlula are separated from each other, and thus they can’t tag team Umngani, they don’t seem to be willing to be as aggressive.

For those who think that it’s unfair to Umngani that Moose has to be such a brat, you forget that for eight years, Moose had to be subdominant to Umngani. Now the tables are turning, although it’s mostly when Moose has his mom with him in the same yard.

There are, of course, lots of times when these same elephants eat calmly side by side or play in the pool here at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, or they’ll simply ignore each other and not have to “flex” their dominance. Often, there is more tranquility in the herd when they know we’ve left for the day, because then there isn’t competition for training sessions or other reinforcement opportunities. Watch the action daily on Elephant Cam!

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

98

Elephant Msholo: Day & Night

The mighty and majestic Msholo is a wonderful part of the Safari Park's African elephant herd.

The mighty and majestic Msholo is a wonderful part of the Safari Park’s African elephant herd.

Successfully managing a large herd of African elephants is an ever-changing and challenging task for us here at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Our decisions on which animals go where and with whom and at what time and for how long is just part of our daily planning, and it changes in some form or another on a daily basis. Let’s take a look at our adult bull Msholo’s activities.

Msholo is out with the entire herd almost every day but is always separated from the rest of the herd at night. Why? He is a large, adult bull and is capable of basically doing whatever he wants to do when he’s with any member of the herd. When he’s out with the herd during the day, we consider this a “supervised” social arrangement, in that we can intervene if we feel we absolutely have to. We haven’t had to, because he’s such a wonderful bull. His tractability and willingness to separate whenever we need him to is probably the result of our relationship, training, and management of him.

Where Msholo spends his evenings is decided by space availability, weather conditions, previous nighttime arrangements, which elephants would be adjacent to his yard, etc. He’s always separated from nine-year-old Vus’musi by at least two barriers. Why? “Moose” loves to play fight through the cables/chains/gates/barriers; this goes back to his days when he would do this whenever he could. His play reminds me of that hand-slap game we used to play as kids!

Because Moose seems to possess that magic touch of pushing the right buttons to antagonize whichever elephant is on the other side, we feel that if he is right next to Msholo, somebody is going to get injured, or break their tusks, or destroy the barrier. So, we make sure the two guys are separated by at least two barriers at night.

We obviously want to give Msholo as much space as possible whenever we can, but the larger yards are made available to the larger groupings. Things can change, and they always do with a very dynamic social group.
As the calves get bigger, perhaps we’ll have to establish a bachelor herd of boys, and Msholo can have company in that scenario, or maybe he’ll get to spend some evenings with the entire herd like he does during the day. We do our best to safely make the best herd management decisions based on many factors.

Curtis Lehman is an animal care manager at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, Elephant Mabu and Family.

36

7th Birthday for Khosi

Khosi makes short work of her iced treat!

Khosi makes short work of her iced treat!

There was a flurry of activity as the Safari Park elephant keepers were setting up for our daily Keeper Talk on September 11. Branches of ficus were put around Tembo Stadium. A bran cake was set up in the middle of the arena with flowers next to it spelling out “Khosi 7.” It was Khosi’s seventh birthday!

Khosi’s trainer led her into the presentation area. The birthday girl was concentrating so hard on her trainer that she walked right by the cake without noticing it! She was asked to back up and finally noticed her goodies. Khosi seemed to really enjoy her cake, and she walked around eating her browse. What a treat!

Laura Price is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, First Birthday for Qinisa.

24

Khosi is Queen for the Day

We celebrate Khosi's 7th birthday!

We celebrate Khosi’s 7th birthday!

Khosi the elephant’s name is short for “heart of a queen,” and yesterday, September 11, 2013, her keepers put together a celebration truly fit for royalty. In honor of Khosi’s seventh birthday, the daily Elephant Keeper Talk at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park was dedicated to celebrating this special gal, and she had quite the setup waiting for her as she entered Tembo Stadium. Silk floss flowers lined the path to Khosi’s cake, which was made from her favorite treats: frozen bran, beet pulp, hay pellets, and mango juice Popsicles.

khosi5

Khosi didn’t have to share her treats on this day.

Khosi’s relaxed personality certainly shone through the day. She first went for the greenery the keepers had put around the stage area and then made her way to the cake, gripping her mango Popsicles with her incredibly cute little trunk. She then stomped the frozen bran to make it into more manageable pieces and lastly went after the pellets, which are like M&M’s for elephants and tend to be Khosi’s favorite treat.

Khosi sure deserved a nice day to herself; after all, she is incredibly nurturing and often takes on the role of babysitting her younger siblings, but this day she got the day off and had the spotlight all to herself. After watching Khosi’s celebration, one this is sure: the birthday girl wore her crown with true grace.

Cielo Villaseñor is a public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Birthday Bonanza for Bai Yun.

79

First Birthday for Qinisa

Qinisa explores her birthday treats with her wonderful trunk.

Qinisa explores her birthday treats with her wonderful trunk.

On August 28, 2013, as African elephant Swazi and her family came over from the west yard through the channel, they saw something different in the east yard near the pool at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park: a large letter Q made of ficus browse and alfalfa with a beet pulp and bran cake covered with flowers in the middle of it. It was Qinisa’s first birthday!

Little Qinisa approached it, ate a few flower petals, and then stood under her mom to eat alfalfa and ficus together. Macembe took advantage of the situation and started eating his little sister’s birthday cake; Qinisa’s half-siblings Kami and Emanti enjoyed the pool by splashing water on themselves. Shortly after that, Swazi and Qinisa helped Macembe finish off the cake. It was a good ending to a great birthday!

Our next elephant birthday is Khosi’s. She turns seven on September 11 and is our oldest female calf.

Laura Price is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Keeping Cool, Elephant Style.

35

Elephant Khosi and Her Tusk

Two of our elephants spend a relaxing afternoon at the Safari Park.

Neepo and big sister Khosi spend a relaxing afternoon at the Safari Park after her procedure.

Today, August 29, 2013, Khosi, a 6-year-old African elephant at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, had a procedure to remove the distinctive metal cap that was protecting the tip of her right tusk. After radiographs were taken of her tusk at the beginning of August to determine the growth of the dentine bridge, our veterinarians concluded that it had filled in enough to safely remove the cap.

Keepers have been training Khosi for the procedure for the last three weeks, and today it was removed without any problems. She is now a little more difficult to identify without the metal cap! Khosi is now back out with the herd and enjoying all the treats that were set out for them today.

Mindy Albright is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

43

Keeping Cool, Elephant Style

An elephant calf dabs mud on its side.

Update: Macembe enjoys the mud bog.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s African elephants are very creative in the summer as they beat the heat. There are pools in both yards that the elephants swim in often. Swazi usually has a small parade of calves following her wherever she goes, usually Macembe, Qinisa, Kami or Khosi, and Emanti. It is fun to watch little Qinisa try to keep up with the bigger calves.

One day, Swazi and the calves were in the pool having fun and Qinisa was on the edge of the pool with Kami. Qinisa called out, and Swazi turned around and accompanied Qinisa into the pool to play with the other calves—it seemed that she wanted her mom to take her into the pool, too!

This calf seems to be waiting for the pool party to begin!

Update: Neepo seems to be waiting for the pool party to begin!

The mud bogs are a favorite with our elephants, as they provide a natural sunscreen and help cool them down on warm days. Sometimes, the elephants take turns using the mud bogs, but a lot of the time there is a big pile of calves on top of each other playing King of the Mountain in the mud. It seems that a muddy elephant is a happy one. We have lots of muddy elephants at the Safari Park!

Watch the fun daily on Elephant Cam,.

Laura Price is keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post,
Elephant Calves Update
.

12

African Elephants in Botswana

Elephants eat and relax along the Chobe River in the Chobe National Park, Botswana.

Elephants eat and drink along the Chobe River in the Chobe National Park, Botswana.

I just returned home after spending two weeks in Botswana with Mike Chase, the Henderson Endowed Research Fellow within the Behavioral Biology Division of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Mike and Kelly Landen, program manager for Elephants Without Borders, were very gracious hosts, and I am excited to announce that at the end of the year, when Mike’s postdoc with the Institute is over, we will be continuing our collaboration assisting Elephants Without Borders to ensure the conservation of elephants along with many other species.

The first week of my visit was spent in Kasane and the Chobe National Park. Within this area of Botswana is one of the densest elephant populations in the world and one of the last remaining strongholds for elephants on this planet. This is an extremely important population, considering the onslaught of elephant poaching in the northwest and central Africa. Recent estimates suggest that tens of thousands of elephants are poached each year, the highest numbers since the late 1980s.

Elephants Without Borders field staff tracks an elephant using radio telemetry.

Elephants Without Borders field staff tracks an elephant using radio telemetry.

During one of our drives down the Chobe River, we observed approximately 1,000 elephants ranging in herds from 10 to 100. We also visited an artificial waterhole late in the afternoon one day, where we found approximately 80 elephants taking turns drinking. Within 30 minutes, I had observed every general category of behavior that elephants engage in, including play, social affiliation, aggression, feeding, and self maintenance (dust bathing), just to name a few. We were even lucky enough to see multiple young calves nursing; one of them looked to be less than a week old. It was truly amazing and exactly what we strive for with our elephants at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, ensuring they have the opportunities to engage in a diversity of behaviors similar to their wild counterparts.

My second week in Botswana was spent in the Okavango Delta. Although in a different area of the delta, the smell of wild sage reminded me of my first trip there. Wild sage can be found quite frequently and has such a wonderful odor. In the Delta, elephant populations are not as dense as those in Chobe National Park, but you have one of the largest continuous ecosystems virtually untouched by man, with the exception of some small safari lodges. Efforts there are underway to explore relationships between habitat type and large herbivore population abundance. This is important work for determining things like carrying capacity and habitat necessary for different species of wildlife.

A female elephant wears a tracking collar in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

A female elephant wears a tracking collar in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

While in the Delta, we tracked some collared elephants using radio telemetry and collected fecal samples as part of an ongoing study looking at stress in elephants living in different areas. With the continued expansion of human populations, understanding how elephants and people can continue to live together will be vital for the future. Over the next couple of months, we will be looking for funding to start a new project examining the effects of ecotourism on key species such as elephants to ensure future generations have the ability to view these amazing animals.

Lance Miller is a scientist in the Behavioral Biology Division of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read his previous post, What is Animal Welfare?

Watch our own African elephant herd daily on Elephant Cam!

118

Elephants Mabu and Family

Here's Mabu enjoying some beet pulp.

Here’s Mabu enjoying some beet pulp at his home in Tucson.

I just got back from spending four days in Tucson with the Reid Park Zoo staff and our five African elephants who moved there from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2012: Mabu, Lungile, Samba, Punga, and Tsundzu (see Elephant Moves). The elephants looked great and seemed to be well adjusted to Tucson’s weather. It was around 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius)—a dry heat—all four days, and the elephants enjoyed quite a bit of pool time and mudding up at the mud bogs.

Mabu thinks about going in the pool while Lungile dusts off.

Mabu thinks about going in the pool while Lungile dusts off.

Mabu’s weight is right at 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms), and I enjoyed spending my moments with him while I was out there (he’s my favorite). Mabu also plays very nicely with the two boys when they decide to go in for a dip. Lungile, on the other hand, usually has to wait for an opportune time to play in the pool with the boys, such as when Samba and Mabu are preoccupied with something else, and Samba is far away.

You can watch the herd from the Reid Park Zoo’s Elephant Cam until 1:30 p.m. Then they usually have access to the barns, and they enjoy beating the heat by hanging out inside where it feels like it’s air conditioned compared to the temperatures outside. The calves looked much bigger since I last saw them, and Lungile still looks the same size. Punga has replaced Musi as Lungile’s sparring partner, and Samba still hasn’t figured out how to cross the stream that feeds the pool without getting her feet wet.

We send our staff to visit with the Reid Park Zoo staff and the elephants about every three months. It’s a nice opportunity to say hello and to see how our pachyderm friends are doing.

Mabu and Punga find a great way to cool off.

Mabu and Punga find a great way to cool off.

Would you believe I wrote this blog almost two months ago? That will give you an idea of how busy the Safari Park’s Elephant Team has been! We’ve been doing our best trying to run a day around all of the construction going on for the Park’s newest habitat, Tiger Trails.
Perhaps it would be best to give our readers some “mini” updates instead of trying to catch up on all 13 of our herd members all at once. We’ll give it a shot!

Curtis Lehman is an animal care manager at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, Elephant Names.