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elephant Qinisa

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Elephant Qinisa Turns 2

Swazi encourages Qinisa to explore her birthday cake.

Swazi encourages Qinisa to explore her birthday cake.

There was a lot of anticipation before little Qinisa’s second birthday on August 28. The keepers had prepared a five-layer cake made of ice infused with an alfalfa pellet and soaked beet-pulp mixture. What a treat for an elephant girl on a hot day!

Oooh! It's nice and cool!

Oooh! It’s nice and cool!

The cake was set up in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tembo Stadium during the 1:30 Keeper Talk, so that Park guests could celebrate with her. Qinisa’s mother, Swazi, was brought into the arena with her. At first, they didn’t seem to notice the cake because they were concentrating on their keepers, who had them run through some husbandry behaviors. When Qinisa had finished her training session, everyone in the audience loudly sang “Happy Birthday.”

Ice cakes are tasty!

Ice cakes are tasty!

Qinisa then explored the arena and investigated her birthday cake. She wasn’t sure what to make of the cake, so she waited until her mom joined her and knocked it over. Satisfied that it was okay, Qinisa then took her time eating little bits of her cake.

The keepers eventually moved all of the elephants back into the main yard and shared the rest of Qinisa’s birthday cake with the herd. What a fun day for everyone!

Laura Price is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Elephants: Eat Your Vegetables!

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Training Elephant Qinisa

Here's Qinisa on the day of her birth. What a cutie!

Here’s Qinisa on the day of her birth. What a cutie!

A common question we get when an elephant calf is born is “When do you start training them?” In short, we do it as soon as possible. In the case of the now 18-month-old Qinisa, her mother, Swazi, let us near her rather soon. We started building a relationship with Qinisa by playing with her to let her get used to us and have her realize that we’re fun to be around!

Qinisa quickly learned that her keepers can scratch her behind the ears much better than any of her elephant friends could! We also weighed her regularly by getting Swazi on the scale with Qinisa close behind. Then we would lead Swazi off the scale but distract Qinisa with a piece of browse or some other object or scheme to get her to stay long enough to read the weight.

At five or six months old, Qinisa started to eat the alfalfa pellets that are used in training our elephants. Once this occurred, we started doing short training sessions throughout the day to accommodate her short attention span. We made these sessions fun, so that she would want to participate. As she got used to these short sessions, we started training simple husbandry behaviors that allow us to check her body every day to make sure she’s healthy. Besides mental stimulation, training sessions are mostly geared toward these types of behaviors.

Qinisa continues to be an enthusiastic elephant who loves to learn new things. We all enjoy having her as our newest member of the herd. Watch Qinisa and the herd daily on Elephant Cam!

Laura Price is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Elephants: A Playful Bunch.

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Quick Qinisa Update

Qinisa on her first day of life.

Our newest African elephant calf, Qinisa, continues to grow at a normal rate. Her weight is now 330 pounds (150 kilograms). She has been playing a lot with half brother Inhlonipho (Neepo), who now weighs over 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms). Neepo keeps his kid gloves on when teaching Qinisa the art of wrestling. This seems to be the pattern between the smallest and the next-smallest members of our herd here at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. With half-sister Kami and big-sister Khosi always close enough to officiate the horseplay, perhaps Neepo doesn’t have much of a choice, so he doesn’t go all out like he does with his big brother Ingadze. Never a dull moment with our elephant herd!

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