For the second time in two months, elephants at San Diego Zoo Safari Park have raised their trunks in greetings to a precious new arrival.
The as-yet unnamed female calf was safely born at 11:20 p.m. Wednesday to 28-year-old Umngani (pronounced OOM-gah-nee).
Tipping the pachydermal scales at 281 pounds, the calf is the heaviest ever born at the Safari Park. The previous champ,a male named Umzula-zuli, weighed more than 270 pounds when born last month.
The birth was long expected, as African elephants have an average gestation period of 649 days, or 22 months. Her “birth window” had been placed between Sept. 12 and Oct 18.
But it was still a bit of a surprise, said Curtis Lehman, animal care supervisor at the Safari Park.
“She has given birth three other times, and those calves arrived late,” Lehman said in a Safari Park statement.
“So when we checked on her first thing this morning, we were surprised and thrilled to see her caring for her healthy newborn. Umngani is a great mom, and she and the baby are doing very well.”
So well, in fact, that in late morning the new mother and baby were allowed to move from their private area to a larger part of the habitat with Umngani ‘s three other offspring: 7-year-old male Inhlonipho; 9-year-old male Ingadze; and 12-year-old female Khosi. The new calf also met 8-year-old male Emanti and 11-year-old Phakamile.
They welcomed the pachy-baby, caressing her with their trunks.
The new calf will be soon be introduced to the rest of the herd, the Safari Park said.
Her birth raises the Safari Park’s African elephant population to 14, including four adults and 10 youngsters. The adults were rescued from the Kingdom of Swaziland in 2003, where they otherwise might have been culled.
Swaziland’s elephant population was too large for the small country, adjacent to South Africa. Limited space and a long drought had rendered the area incapable of supporting so many elephants.
The baby and the rest of her herd can be seen at the Safari Park’s elephant habitat. They’re also starring on the Safari Park’s Elephant Cam, at j.mp/elephcam.