Busy Elephant Calves

Posted at 10:21 am March 26, 2008 by Fred Bercovitch

After a very busy winter, life at African elephants at the Wild Animal Park is calming down a bit, though with one juvenile and three babies, it’s always exciting! (That’s right, a juvenile! Can you believe Vus’musi, aka Moose, just turned four years old? He is over 3,000 pounds!) Lungile is recovering well; she is back out in the large yard with all the other elephants.* Her appetite and weight are increasing. It looks like she’ll be back to 100 percent in no time!

Impunga celebrated his first birthday on March 11 with an elephant-sized cake made of ice blocks, browse, hay, and vegetables. His favorite part seemed to be the frozen alfalfa pellets, and after he had his fill the other elephants were able to join the party and helped him finish it off.

Six-month-old Phakamile, aka Kamile, is learning that her keepers don’t just mean lots of fun scratches and games. They also have that most wonderful treat: food pellets!! She is quickly learning that a keeper’s whistle means she did something fantastic. Her older sister, Khosi, who is 1½, is a good role model to follow. She is exploring the pools and has been brave enough to go out doggy paddling with the rest of the babies, although she got a rude awakening when she stepped off the last step into deep water! You can regularly find all of the calves splashing around in the small pool near the Elephant Overlook, and we are even starting to put water in the larger “adult” pool, though we are not filling it all the way yet.

As summer approaches and the weather warms up, all of the elephants are enjoying several new dirt piles and mud bogs we have placed in the yard. It is not uncommon to see all of the calves playing together, rolling around on top of one another and competing for the best patch of dirt. Sometimes they exhaust themselves and eventually lay so still you might mistake them for just another boulder in the yard. They can be inseparable at times, their own little herd of miniature elephants exuberantly running all over the yard! While they are exhausting to watch, their friendships no doubt make it easier on our many mothers who can count on getting a break or two throughout the day while an auntie takes over babysitting duties.

As Mabhulane, or Mabu, continues to enjoy being the only adult male in the herd, we are looking forward to extending our research into the nursing habits and development of elephant calves. After all, collecting data means we get to be entertained by the cutest little babies around! To see our tiny tots, stop by the Elephant Overlook or the Pachyderm Patio at the Wild Animal Park. You never know what antics you might see!

Brittany Archer is a senior keeper at the Wild Animal Park

Jeff Andrews is animal care manager of elephants at the Wild Animal Park

Fred Bercovitch is head of the San Diego Zoo’s Behavioral Biology Division

*Lungile was being treated for a postpartum infection after giving birth in November 2007. Sadly, her calf passed away in February 2008. More”¦

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35 Responses to “Busy Elephant Calves”

  1. Michelle says:

    Thank you so, so much for this update. I have been wondering how everyone is doing. I wish I could see them in person, I feel like I know them all. I’ve watched elephant shows that tell about male elephants going into ” musk” ?. How does this affect Mabu?

  2. Sharon says:

    I love reading about the babies. I can’t tell you how many times I come down there to watch (the gang, as I put it). The baby elephants are so cute. I’ve started my own blogspot about W.A.P and share it with family and friends. I’m a photographer, so they get to see all the pictures. I’ve also been keeping watch on the lion cubs. How cute are they!! But I think my favorite is Kamile. I just love to watch her run and play. She’s so playful. I just want to give her a big hug! You all are doing such a fantastic job down there. Keep up the good work. I’ll be down in April for the photo caravan. Can’t wait for that.

  3. barbara says:

    Thank you for letting us know about Lungile. It’s great news that she is getting her appetite and is back with her family, which probably will be a comfort to her.The youngster must be having a ball with the water and dirt. I caught them last year rolling in the mud. What a time they had. Thank you to all the staff who worked so hard to help Lungile recover from the complications of birth.

  4. Carole says:

    Thank you for the update. So happy to hear Lungile is recovering and back with the family. There is nothing cuter than baby elephants playing in water and mud.

  5. CaroleA says:

    Thank you so much for the update. I am glad that Lungile is doing so much better.

  6. Margaret says:

    Thanks very much for the update on Lungile, and the ” babies.” They are all growing so fast it is hard to call them babies any more. Kandula at NZP turned 6 in November. Since there is no adult male there yet, they have to rely on AI for their baby elephants. They sadly lost their female baby before Kandula due to a disease that turns out to be carried by African elephants and is deadly to Asian elephants. Since that discovery all zoos have separated their Asian and African elephants so that will not happen to babies in the future.

    It is so much exciting to watch the fun the baby elephants are having on the videos that visitors to WAP have put on YouTube. They sure enjoy the pools, and seem to enjoy the mud as much or more than panda cubs.

    Please keep us posted on Lungile’s and the babies’ progress now that things are getting back to routine at Elephant land at WAP.

    Looking forward to a grand summer of water play I am sure.

  7. Judy J says:

    Dear Brittany & Jeff & Fred,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful update! We all celebrate you and your hard earned successes! I am so happy for Lungile and so glad she is back with her family, who I am sure have given her ‘elephant hugs’. I have so enjoyed the babies at play and the interaction and dynamics of the herd. When I am able to visit the WAP I can literally spend hours observing this wonderful pachyderm family. Blessings to all of you who have made all of this possible. Blessed Be All of Thee with Love, Judy J

  8. Cindy in East Lansing says:

    Wonderful blog about the calves and especially great to hear that Lungile is doing better. Great update!

  9. Susan (UK) says:

    Fantastic news about Lungile. I love looking through the elephant photos; they are so cute.

  10. Rose N. says:

    Hi Brittany, Jeff and Fred – Thank you for the terrific news. We are very happy that Lungile is back with the herd and doing well.

    Now that Lungile is back, we will enjoy watching her and the whole group frolicking and splashing in the pool.

    It’s hard to believe that Moose is four years old and weighs over 3,000 lbs! It was not so long ago that we enjoyed his first day on exhibit – so small, feisty and cute! It’s wonderful to watch them growing up right before our eyes.

    Thank you for keeping us updated and a BIG thank you for all your hard work in taking care of these awesome animals.

  11. Chari Mercier says:

    Thanks for the new update, you guys! I’m very glad that Lungile is doing very well and back in with the herd. I figured that being back with the other elephants will help in her recovery both physically and emotionally. Happy birthdays to 4 year old Moose and 1 year old Punga! Hope you got some brand new recent pics of the elephants in your photo gallery! Elephant cam is holding up pretty good so far. It did go out on us a few days ago for a few hours, but was back online the next day. Been able to see the elephants when I can catch them on the cam at the right time. Someone needs to be on the cam to get better closeups of the elephants in that big pool, especially the babies! Apparently, Kamile has a lot of great role models to look to! She has already figured out how to get some of those treats from the keepers already, thanks to her older brother and sister showing her how! Before long, Kamile will be a year old! Have the vets ever figured out why Lungile was not producing enough milk for her baby? That’s a new source of research to find out the reasons for that situation.

    Anything new about if and when Swazi will get pregnant? She’s the only female elephant in the herd that has not had a baby yet, and I would love to see her be a mom to her own baby real soon. Let us know, ok?

    Well, gonna go and get back on elephant cam to see who’s in cam view!

    Loving the babies,

    Chari Mercier 🙂

    St. Pete, FL

    PS: You may have found this out already, but National Zoo vets and elephant staff have done 2 artificial insemination procedures on their Asian elephant, Shanthi, back in mid January, 2008. Now, it’s a waiting game to see if this took or not, and they will give her an ultrasound to see if she is definitely pregnant in about 2-3 months. Shanthi had AI done on her last year, but it didn’t take, so no new baby elephant. If Shanthi is pregnant, she should have her baby by late 2009/early2010. Hope this works for them! They are totally redoing their elephant area called Elephant Trails, and are working on developing a strong Asian elephant herd there. Keep praying for them and keep your fingers crossed!

  12. Chari Mercier says:

    Hi! Me again! I got on the page that have the pictures of the elephant calves, and there has been no new pics of the elephants since Nov., 2007. Still no pics of Moose’s and Punga’s birthdays, and no recent pics of the calves that I know have grown alot in the last several months. Will you please get us some new pics of the elephant calves ASAP??? Will appreciate it a whole lot!!!


    Chari Mercier 🙁

    St. Pete, FL

  13. Chari Mercier says:

    Hi! To all of the elephant fans out there, Atlanta Zoo had some great news that was announced back in Nov., 2007. Their African elephant named Dottie is definitely pregnant, and she will be expecting her new baby elephant calf sometime in the spring of 2009. She was artificially inseminated back in June 2007, and the ultrasound that the vets did in Nov., 2007 showed a live baby elephant developing inside Dottie. Atlanta Zoo has 2 other female elephants in the herd, and they plan to keep the new baby elephant there to be an addition to this herd. Dottie is 25 years old and has been at Atlanta Zoo for 20 years now. This will be the very first birth of an African elephant calf at the zoo, and they are very excited about it! Now, we’ll all have to wait about another year for the calf to arrive! Now, Dottie will be eating for two!! You can check the Atlanta Zoo website for any new updates about Dottie. I’m also hoping that Asian elephant Shanthi will be pregnant, also. We won’t know that for another 2-3 months or so yet, so it’s a waiting game for Shanthi.

    Hoping that you all at WAP will get some new pics on the gallery page of the babies along with Moose and Punga’s birthday party pics.

    Chari Mercier 🙂

    St. Pete, FL

  14. Daniel says:

    Question about the future of the exhibit… Once Elephant Odyssey opens up will the current African exhibit be joined with the Asian one or will that be developed into something else?

    Moderator’s note: The African and Asian elephant exhibits are at the Wild Animal Park; the new Elephant Odyssey is being build at the San Diego Zoo. The Park’s Asian elephants will move to the Zoo to live in Elephant Odyssey and the Park’s African elephant area will be expanded. At least, that’s the plan at the moment 😉

  15. Diana S. says:

    Great news on Lungile’s progress. Thank you so much for catching us up.

  16. Deb says:

    I’m glad to hear that Lungile is doing better physically, but how is she doing emotionally? Did she go though a grieving process right after her baby passed away? I would be surprised if she didn’t; elephant mothers are so dedicated to their young. Who is Lungile most bonded with in the herd?

  17. CaroleA says:


    Just wondering when we will get new pictures or recent videos on the elephants?


    Moderator’s note: It’s on our photographer’s ” To Do” list. We’ll post them when they become available.

  18. Chari Mercier says:

    Hi, WAP!! Just writing to you all to check in about the elephants. What’s the latest news about Lungile? She should be fully recovered by now! Has Swazi had a chance to breed with Mabu yet, or have an AI done? Hope so! I’m also waiting for new pics of the elephants, especially the babies. That’s it for now.

    Write back with a new update, ok?


    Chari Mercier 🙂

    St. Pete, FL

  19. Chari Mercier says:

    Hi, again! Just got on the elephant cam page, saw the cam on, then after about a couple of minutes, it just went blank and had camzone on it! Hope nothing too serious is going on with it. Yesterday, I was on the elephant cam and saw that huge pool with a lot of water in it, then today, it was empty! What’s up with that? Elephants love to splash in the water, especially those growing babies! Speaking about the babies, we all need brand new pics of them, and brand new profile updates about them ASAP! The info on their profiles are a little outdated as far as age, weight, and other info. May you please get those updated? We will appreciate it alot! Also, still waiting to find out how Lungile has been doing, and if Swazi will be mating with Mabu or have an AI done on her. Let us know, ok?


    Chari Mercier 🙂

    St. Pete, FL

  20. Michelle says:

    How do the babies know who their mom is? By smell? Or do they recognize them by sight?

  21. Chari Mercier says:

    Hi, you all! Just got on the SDZ/WAP elephant page to check the elephant cam twice today, and it’s out again. Hope you can get it back up and online real quick. Also, still waiting on the new info on the elephant calves’ profiles with new info on them and new recent weights. New pics of them would be nice, too, on the profiles and on the photo gallery! I’m surprised that there were not any pics of Moose’s and Punga’s birthdays on the gallery! I was looking forward to seeing them. Any news about whether Swazi will be pregnant? Let us know about her!

    Not much else! Just missed seeing the elephants today!!


    Chari Mercier 🙂

    St. Pete, FL

  22. Deborah says:

    Is there a way to add the ” send a postcard” feature to the elephant cam?

  23. Emily says:


    I love all animals!!!!!!!

    Can you send me a picture?


  24. Chari Mercier says:

    Hey, you guys at WAP! How are you doing, and more importantly, how are all of the elephants doing? We have not had a good, solid update about the elephants since March, and we are really wanting to read something new about this bunch of pachyderms, especially the babies! Plus, there are NO NEW pics on the photo gallery, and no new pics and updates about Punga, Khosi, and Kamile! We were hoping that we would see all of this by now, but not yet!! Will you PLEASE get us the updates ASAP?? We will all appreciate it alot!

    Thanks from an elephant lover,

    Chari Mercier 🙂

    St. Pete, FL

    PS: Please continue to pray for China and all of the panda reserves. They are still going thru some very rough days and weeks with continued aftershocks, needing food and shelter, and the threat of flooding from one of the lakes that was made by an earthquake landslide. The pandas at the reserves need to be cared for, fed, and sheltered as well. The Chinese people and their beloved pandas need our help, so please donate!

  25. Don Stillwell says:

    7-6-2008 Was intrigued with the interaction of both the adults and the babies with the ball with a brain, or so it looks like. What makes the ball seem to come back to a seemingly fixed location from the log? I spent more than half an hour watching what seemed like every elephant, both adult and baby, move the ball back and forth and then end up in the same final spot. Looks like the ball is attached to a rubber band.

    Later in the day I brought the ballgame to my wife’s attention and we watched it for another half-hour.

    We’re Keeper Club members but don’t get to the Wild Animal Park as often as we used to. Have loads of videos and stills of the baby elephants, in particular, but was really intrigued with the ball activity today.

    Thanks for making the elephants fun times interesting.

  26. Joan says:

    Hi There

    Just wondering when an elephant update might hit the blog?! It’s been months and I know I keep thinking about Lungile, so I imagine others are also wondering. Any information would be greatly appreciated by us viewers!

    Thank you!

    Moderator’s note: We hope to have one by the end of this week. (We’ve been nagging!)

  27. Don Stillwell says:

    What happened? The seemingly magical ball at the end of the log seems to have disappeared. There are shadows for the log and for the elephants but none for the ball. Wrote on July 6 about all the fun the young and old alike were having playing with the ball. Don’t guess you respond to e-mails, but this is getting curiouser and curiouser (if that’s the correct spelling). Perhaps it was a one day only distraction but I was pretty sure it was still there yesterday. Just never saw any elephants in the field at the same time as I saw the ball. Keep up the good work and keep giving those elephants fun activities to look forward to.

  28. Don Stillwell says:

    Re items 25 and 27 in above list of responses, I went to the WAP today to see if I could learn the secret of the magical ball. For those who are as curious as I was, I learned the ball is one of the enrichments for the elephants. Seems it is actually attached to a stake by a strap and is filled with goodies for the elephants. It always comes back to the same spot because of the strap. The person who told me how it works said the WAP likes to change enrichment items regularly so this item may appear again in the future. The 3 young elephants are always a delight to watch, especially when they are playing together. They seem equally at home in sand or mud! Thanks ever so much for caring enough to keep thinking of new ways to make their days pleasant.

  29. ANEESA SALAM says:


  30. John says:

    Your small fenced-off enclosure is entirely too small for the number of elephants you have. Do you plan to let the breeding run amuck? Please answer the tough questions from a concerned public. Please do not sugar coat everything. You can pretend those of us who are elephant entusiasts are not there, but we are not going away. If you want our respect, you must respect our concerns.

  31. Don Stillwell says:

    With reference to item 30, 5 of the 6 female elephants have had babies and those babies have provided me with hours and hours of enjoyment. The WAP is doing what it was created to do. It’s not as if they popped out babies every month or so, it takes 22 to 24 months for a pregnancy and the pregnancy doesn’t occur until after the previous offspring is several years old. I am proud of the Zoo and WAP for stepping in and saving elephants that were due to become non-existent. The 3 acres of land seem to give space for all to maneuver comfortably, including the babies. Watching the 2 baby girls and the one small baby boy interacting with each other is precious. I don’t think the gentleman has to be concerned with the breeding running amuck. Again, thanks for interceding for these elephants so they could produce offspring for many hundreds of visitors to enjoy. Keep giving them tender loving care, they deserve it.

  32. Judy J says:

    I am in total agreement with Don (#31). The keepers and veterinarians and other staff at the WAP are devoted caretakers of these precious pachyderms. The hours they have spent watching over this amazing herd have been countless and the enthusiasm they have for their charges is highly evident and contagious. As Don has, I and my family and friends have spent many hours on the Elephant Overlook observing the behaviors of this ‘family’ and the antics of the ‘toddlers and juvenilles’. And my understanding is that when the new Elephant Odessey at the ZOO is completed within the next year or so the Asain elephants currently at the WAP will all be transferred to that new 7 acre site and their area will somehow be opened and joined with the African elephants at the WAP. Saving this group of elephants from certain death was a challenging task taken on by the Zoological Society and we are so grateful they persevered and were successful. Whenever we visit the WAP and Mabu and his family they have always seemed comfortable, secure, calm and happy and we are thrilled that they have been able to reproduce so well. It has been important to acquire new genetics in the elephant population in the US and they have been very successful in this endeavor. We have also learned invaluable information I am sure that has helped not only us but other zoos and parks improve their elephant programs and care. Please rest assured John that these elephants are all loved and given the best care by the most wondeful and dedicated staff you could find anywhere.

    Thank you staff for all your hours of devoted care for our precious pachyderms.

    Blessed Be, Judy J

  33. Don Stillwell says:

    I want to thank Judy J for her comments (32). Where can someone learn more about the Elephant Odessey at the ZOO and the plans to combine the Asian and African elephant areas at the WAP after the Asian elephants are moved to the ZOO that Judy J wrote about in her comment? Continued thanks to the elephant caretakers and all who work in the elephant area for their continuing hard work making their charges comfortable and for making their daily lives adventurous with all their enrichment items.

  34. Cameron says:

    Man, you have had 4 baby elephants born in the park ever since Mabu and his six ‘wives’ arrived! Moose, Khosi, Punga, and Kamile, they may be half-siblings, but that doesn’t make much of a difference! Heck, it would be nice to see all four of the elephants I listed take an excursion around their enclosure.

  35. Betsy says:

    Hey everybody, you are all doing a superb job! All the animals are so much fun to watch. When I watched Bai Yun stand up next to one of the trees and bite Zhen Zhen on the back of the neck and pull her down out of that tree, it scared me, and then she kept it up and pulled her off the log and on the ground by the back of the neck, I guess she really made her mom upset with her. I also saw one of the polar bears drag his pine tree into the water and put it on the shelf rock and slept on it, it was so cute. The funniest thing I saw was a mother elephant standing next to the fence for a keeper or vet and show her foot and then turn around, she had her baby standing there with her and when the baby turned around, she threw herself right on the ground, I never laughed so hard, it was so funny! Thanks again for all you do!