Baby Elephant Born at Safari Park

Umngani—an elephant from Swaziland—welcomes her third calf.

Umngani (oom-gah-nee) is a mom again at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The African elephant gave birth to a male calf at 5:45 a.m. on Monday, making her the first elephant in this herd to give birth to three calves, according to a news release from the park.

Umngani, her 5-year-old calf, Khosi (koh-see), and her 2-year-old, Ingadze (in-Gahd-zee), could be seen by Safari Park visitors watching over the newest member of the family, who is still unnamed.

Khosi, whose nickname is the "babysitter," was living up to her reputation. She kept a watchful eye on the calf, making sure he didn't stray far from his mother and also placing her body between the newborn calf and the rest of the curious elephant herd. 

The Safari Park is now home to 18 elephants—8 adults and 10 youngsters. The adults were rescued in 2003 from the Kingdom of Swaziland, where they faced being culled. A lack of space and long periods of drought created unsuitable habitat for a large elephant population in the small southern African country, according to the Safari Park news release. Swaziland's big game parks officials felt they had two options: kill this group of elephants or export them to a zoo willing to care for the pachyderms. 

At the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park, elephant studies are under way on nutrition, daily walking distance, growth and development and bioacoustic communication. In Africa, a San Diego Zoo Global scientist is studying human-elephant conflicts as well as habitat range and use. In 2004, the non-profit organization committed to contributing $30,000 yearly to Swaziland's big game parks though 2014 to fund programs like anti-poaching patrols, improved infrastructure and the purchase of additional acreage for the parks. In addition, San Diego Zoo Global supports other elephant conservation projects through donations to the International Elephant Foundation, an organization that funds elephant conservation projects around the world, according to the news relase.

The average gestation period for African elephants is 22 months. A newborn calf averages 200 to 300 pounds. Calves can be weaned at 2 to 3 years old.    
Umngani and her three calves will continue to bond in a separate yard from the rest of the herd while the newborn gets steady on his feet, learns to follow his mother closely and gets at least a full day of nursing to make him strong, the news release stated.
The family can be seen daily at the elephant habitat or on the Safari Parks online webcam, Elephant Cam.

Kids under 11 get in free every day in October.

The 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo Safari Park (previously referred to as Wild Animal Park) is operated by the non-profit San Diego Zoo and includes a 900-acre native species reserve. The organization focuses on conservation and research work around the globe, educates millions of individuals a year about wildlife and maintains accredited horticultural, animal, library and photo collections. The zoo also manages the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. 

The conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

Update Tuesday from the Safari Park: "By the weekend he should be with the rest of the herd and in the main yard so people will get a good view of him and the rest of the little ones out there. There were four elephants born last year so there are lots of kids to watch. No name yet. It usually takes a little while. We wait until we know if it's a male or female. Now that we know, we'll get to work finding a fitting name."

Kari September 27, 2011 at 01:34 AM
He is precious, but what happens to the males once they become too old/big to be with the rest of the herd? Usually they are shipped off to be alone in their own small pen for the rest of their lives. I hope this park has thought about how they are going to care for the males once they are adults.
Julie Pendray September 27, 2011 at 02:18 AM
I forwarded your question to the Park staff and I'll post the answer when I receive it.
tom Comeau September 27, 2011 at 02:57 PM
Cute little bugger! Umnganni is awfully close to Umngawa, or is that joke to old to register with this crowd? ;-)
Pamela Ramos Langley September 27, 2011 at 06:13 PM
Kari, I am a member of the SD Zoological society and have been going to the Safari Park (formerly the Wild Animal Park) for much of my life. This is a facility dedicated to conservation and sustainability. It was the first facility of it's kind, allowing herds of compatible species to roam almost wild on their tens of thousands of acres of parkland. All of their animals are given huge areas of natural space conducive to their needs on which to roam. They do not EVER breed indiscriminately, and as the article mentions, this herd was saved from being "culled," a very unsavory option. I saw this little guy yesterday, just a few hours after he was born and spoke with a keeper. He will stay with his mother for approximately 5 years as he would in the wild. Then they will assess the best place for him to be rehomed to avoid lack of genetic diversity in the herd. I can guarantee that they will not ship him off to be alone in a small pen anywhere. You should view the Park's site and not make assumptions about any kind of cavalier approach to conservation--this park is headed and staffed by some of the most committed animal folk I've encountered. This little fellow will be far luckier than many of his contemporaries who get caught in the cross-fires of war, poaching and human encroachment.
Rusty Cox September 28, 2011 at 01:12 AM
Pemela, get your facts straight- there was an offer to translocate the herd in question to another reserve in Southern Africa. Swaziland chose to take the money, and upon payment their leader built 12 'palaces' for his mistresses. It was not quite as noble as SDWAP spins it. But having said that, they do a fantastic job at San Diego; social structure is very important to this species and the moms and related females are kept together, just like in wild populations. By the way- 2 to 3 years is the low end for weaning, they can nurse (supplementally) for 5+ and bull calves are not discharged from their herd until 8-18 years old, gradually. Their is a high % of males being born, so Kari's concerns are well founded- the AZA has a lot of work ahead of them and they need to get on it now ...
Pamela Ramos Langley September 28, 2011 at 02:54 AM
Rusty, get YOUR facts straight. Did you read the article above? Because we're talking about an elephant herd that was located in a beautiful preserve in So CA rather than being potentially culled, as the article states, and as I've heard from the keepers at the Safari Park. BTW, another fact you might want to note is that the name of the former SDWAP was changed about a year ago to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. I was speaking directly to the point of the future of a baby male elephant born yesterday at the Park, not the socio-political nuances that you mention above, and that contradict the story that was quoted and told. It's confrontational to tell me to get my facts straight when you cite no sources for your story that contradicts the information here. And maybe you can get YOUR facts straight, because I spooke at length with two of the elephant keepers who told me yesterday that the babies stay with their mothers (who said anything about when they wean), for approximately 5 years in the wild. So I don't know how qualified you are to lecture me, but I was speaking directly to the keepers, so I quoted what they said. I am well aware of the high % of the male babies being born at the Safari Park, since I'm there nearly once a month, I've seen most of them since shortly after they were born. I addressed Kari's concerns insofar as they relate to the Safari Park, it's treatment and placement of their animals, and their commitment to the babies that are born at their park.
Rusty Cox September 28, 2011 at 11:36 AM
Pam, you must be kidding me. First of all, I am a keeper. Secondly, you can fact-check by opening any book about elephants- females remain with their mothers for life, males are pushed from their herd around age 8-18 but remain close for some time. Don't be naive! San Diego had to renew their importation permit because the initial application was in violation of the animal protection laws... You can dig through the archives and find the story about Swaziland's king with a sudden windfall of cash... And the high % of male calves is not just at SD, it's captivity in general. Kari has a point. Don't be so quick to think that SD has such great moral and ethical standing; why don't you ask for a tour of their 'back 40' and see the male antelope housed in tiny pens where they only get to see a wall for the vast majority of their lives? Or how they suddenly 'discovered' elephant communication that was truly discovered over 30 years ago? Please....
clm1950 September 28, 2011 at 03:55 PM
Obviously Pam is a die hard SD Fan and nothing that is said here will make a difference to her. To learn more about African Elephants read Cynthia Moss's book Elephant Memories or go to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Website and read about the elephants of Tsavo in Kenya. SD relocated 3 older African elephants to the Lincoln Park Zoo to make room for these elephants from Swaziland. The relocation contributed to their early deaths. The SD Zoo is breeding these African elephants for other zoos, thus the disappointment when a bull is born. Reid Park will be getting a group of these elephants when their new elephant prison is complete.
clm1950 September 28, 2011 at 03:56 PM
Oh and Elephant communication was discovered by Katy Payne and Joyce Poole. They both have several books and papers on the subject.
Willabelle September 28, 2011 at 03:58 PM
Sorry, Pamela .... having a membership to the zoological society (which requires, what, about $30 ??) and talking occasionally to the keepers there doesn't make you an expert - it just makes you a typical zoo shill, who rotely and mindlessly repeats back every bit of PR crap you are told. How can you call this exhibit "huge and conducive to their needs" when it's only 2.5 acres (for now 18 elephants) and barren of any natural stimulation. Wild elephants can and often do walk 30+ MILES a day. Wild bulls are not kicked out of the herd at age 5. And Kari's concerns for the future of these bulls is valid - they will live their lives behind bars isolated and deprived of all they value. They'll be torn from their family and shipped off to other barren zoos as babies (yes, 5 is prepubescent), never to have anything resembling a natural elephant life. Rusty is right about how this herd got to SD - the zoo paid off the authorities in Swaziland - there were other in situ offers to save them. If you really want to know the true nature of elephants, you should ask wild researchers, not zoo robots whose paychecks depend on keeping them in captivity.
Julie Pendray September 28, 2011 at 04:07 PM
This is a most interesting discussion. I've asked the zoo and Safari Park if they want to respond to any of this. Thanks everyone for participating.
Pamela Ramos Langley September 28, 2011 at 04:59 PM
If anyone has been to the Safari Park and actually viewed the elephant exhibit, I'm sure you will agree that it is hardly "barren of any natural stimulation," having probably more enriching aspects, caring keepers, and stimulating environments than even their natural habitats. Of course the ideal situation is for animals to remain wild, who would argue with that? To lump these employees who work extremely hard and truly exhibit love and care for the animals into the catagory of "zoo robots" is ignorant, and a disservice to many of the people I have spoken with there over the years. They are educated, idealistic and passionate about conservation. I hope one of them weighs in here. I am extremely happy when ANY animal are in the wild and doing what comes naturally to them. Unfortunately wake up and smell the coffee of the culture of humanity in the world, Willabelle, and realize that these animals have been poached and encroached upon and starved to endangerment in their natural habitat. A focus for your emotion should be at the institutions and humans that make it dangerous for many species to remain in Africa. These elephants are some of the luckiest--this park does its best to provide them with a beautiful, enriched environment. Dogs live chained and abused all around this country. Birds live in tiny cages and look at how we raise our farm animals ...
Pamela Ramos Langley September 28, 2011 at 04:59 PM
And finally, your assumptions about what I know and what I've read is without merit. Two blog posts and you know everything about my scope of knowledge? I've listened to numerous animal researchers, I've seen Jane Goodall live, I'm well-informed. And I support what the Safari Park is doing. That's MY perspective.
Rusty Cox September 28, 2011 at 05:54 PM
And by the way I complimented SD for their elephant program- I'm sure that it's far better than the days of M'dundamela.... But if you want to soap box on someone's legitimate concern, then you should have a better understanding of what you are talking about. I think that it's very telling that you didn't contradict the facts that i presented.... Are we learning Pam?
Willabelle September 28, 2011 at 11:00 PM
"A focus for your emotion should be at the institutions and humans that make it dangerous for many species to remain in Africa." I couldn't agree more ..... that should be everyone's focus, preserving wildlife in its natural habitat - so why do you defend and support its antithesis - institutions of captivity that exploit animals for profit under the guise of conservation ?? Something tells me that if these elephants could talk, the last thing they would say is that they're lucky. Don't get the dog/bird analogy ... zoo elephants are just as restricted in their movement by humans. Chained and caged too - how is that better ?? Ask the chained dog and the chained elephant how different it is. Weird, ignorant logic. Never questioned the intelligence, idealism, or compassion of the keepers - only the justification that zoos are necessary to preserve wildlife. Zoos' contributions to in situ conservation is usually less than 1% of budget - gotta fund those gift shops, kiddie rides, and CEO salaries first.
Pamela Ramos Langley September 28, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Willabelle, I'm really done with this conversation, but since you asked a few questions, I'll answer and then people can make up their own minds. What makes you say the Safari Park (and that's what I'm speaking to, not ZOOS) chains their elephants? I have been going there for over 30 years. I have NEVER seen an animal chained. They have a beautiful exhibit, which they can walk from one end to another, with trees, logs, toys, feeding platforms and tools, and a huge swimming pond. There is a smaller area for mom's with newborns, and even that area is enriched. I have watched the keepers train the elephants to behaviors that help them examine them, and when some elephants were recently returned to the LA Zoo after housing them during the reno there, they put the moving crates for weeks in the exhibit for the elephants to explore and they allowed the elephants to determine their shipping date. I'm not going to elaborate on my reference to dogs being chained and birds being caged, I made a point about where you are directing your assumptions and accusations. Since the elephants ARE NOT chained, it would be your logic that is "weird" and "ignorant." I'm very confident of my education and logic, and I'll let any critical readers of this thread determine who makes more sense. You called the keepers who I referred to in my original post "zoo robots," so if that's not questioning their intelligence, what is? Fund gift shops? Have you even looked at the form 990 for the Safari Park?
clm1950 September 29, 2011 at 01:29 AM
In checking Guidestar the Form 990 for 2009 is posted. Obviously, I didn't spend a lot of time digging, but from what I glanced over out of 173 million budget, less than 1% went toward "conservation." Mostly for conservation research in Africa & Asia. Most of the money would be for expenses and donations to organizations like Save The elephants. No money for anti de-snaring & anti-poaching patrols. No money for assistance in protecting habitats and elephant corridors.


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