The Park held a naming ceremony this morning, which I was privileged to attend (any excuse to get away from my computer, right?). As they do every morning for Elephant Rush, the keepers had all of the elephants in the upper yard while Emanti’s name was painted in large letters on the rock outcropping in the main exhibit and then covered over with large pieces of leafy browse to hide the name. The plan: release May Baby, mother Umoya, and big sister Kami into the main exhibit first and see if one of them would pull the browse from the rock and reveal the name. Well, it didn’t quite work that way, but we got a fine show just the same.
Our normal Elephant Rush begins at 11 a.m.; this is when the 15-member herd is given access to the main exhibit, where they dash out and immediately search the entire area to see what goodies and enrichment items the keepers have set out for them that day. Today was different: Umoya, Kami, and Baby were released first. When they realized they were the only elephants in the area, they slowed down, looking puzzled. Kami was so thrown off by this change of routine that she sped back to the upper yard where the rest of the elephants were waiting! Umoya, with Baby following close behind, ignored the tantalizing browse, so after a while the signal was given to allow the herd to join her. Out came a fast-paced parade of six, led by Vus’Musi, our six-year-old, heading straight for the hidden name. (Boy, has he gotten big!) Vus’Musi pulled off some of the browse and Samba grabbed some more, but still the name was hidden. Yikes!
And then along came Umoya. She pushed the others out of the way and in one magnificent tug, revealed the name EMANTI and collected her reward. I don’t think it could have been choreographed any better!
It was fun to watch various elephants as they explored the exhibit. Keepers used a large slingshot to launch a favorite snack, alfalfa-based pellets, into the yard. The Park’s Tanzanian acrobats gave a brief performance. A few elephants came up to the pool, which is located right in front of the Elephant Viewing Patio, but instead of going in, they filled their trunks with water from puddles at the pool’s edge. I could tell little Emanti wanted to take a dip; after all, his name does mean “water” in Siswati, the language of Swaziland. He was wobbly going down the steps toward the water, but that just made him even more endearing! Yet Mom wasn’t as interested, so he reluctantly followed, trotting on unsteady little calf legs back up the slight incline. Soon, Lungile, Kami, and Mabu went into the pool for a wonderful soaking session. I learned that Lungile has been in heat the last three days, and Mabu has been following her everywhere and breeding her whenever possible. In 22 more months, we could have another baby to name!
Thanks to all who submitted name suggestions (we received more than 1,000) and to all who voted (more than 2,500 votes cast) in our four-day online poll. The name Emanti earned 53 percent of the vote, and I think it’s the perfect moniker.
Debbie Andreen is a blog moderator for the San Diego Zoo.
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