Three’s a herd!
Hey everyone! It’s Caleb again! It’s been an eventful, awesome summer for the Elephant Care Team. On August 8, we opened our all-new African Savanna, and if you’ve been paying attention to our social networks, you have been seeing something a little different about our elephant herd: a third elephant!
Toward the end of July, Kelly and Tara welcomed Msholo to our brand-new African Savanna and state-of-the-art Zambezi Elephant Center. Following his routine quarantine period, we began introductions between Msholo and the girls. We spent a couple weeks doing “howdies,” which is where we had Msholo and the girls in neighboring areas where they could touch and interact without actually being in the same space. It wasn’t long before we knew he was going to fit right in! Once our team felt the elephants were ready, we started putting them all together outside. From day one, it couldn’t have gone better! Within hours, the elephants settled down from the excitement of something new, and they’ve been doing great ever since.
So, let’s talk about bull elephants, since this is new for Zoo Atlanta. Adult male elephants can weigh up to 15,000 pounds (Msholo weighs 11,000 pounds!) and are extremely curious and social animals. It’s a common myth that bulls are considered these “unsocial loners”; however, that is not the case. Both in human care and in the wild, bulls still stick around female family herds and have even been shown to form small bachelor herds where they play, roughhouse, and ultimately learn how to be an elephant. (Consider this myth: busted!) Once they reach a certain age, bulls go through something called musth, which is a reoccurring period where testosterone levels can be ten times their normal levels. Depending on age and dominance, musth can last anywhere from a few days to months. Due to this massive increase in hormone levels, behavior in bulls can be unpredictable and potentially aggressive. Taking this into consideration, our facility was built with the specialized care of male elephants in mind. While Msholo is incredibly social with both the care team and other elephants, we have the space to allow him or other bull elephants to be solitary during these periods, where he can have specialized care beyond his normal high-quality care he would get every day.
Lastly, a lot of guests have asked me about breeding. We have no intention of breeding Msholo with Kelly or Tara, as both of the females are 36 years old. The Animal Care Team monitors their reproductive health as part of their ongoing care plan, and they are not considered to be candidates to breed due to their age. That being said, the Zambezi Elephant Center and African Savanna has the capacity to house up to seven adult elephants (including the capability to have a breeding herd), so it is something we have the capacity for in the future. Nevertheless, our focus is always on excellent elephant care for the elephants we currently have. And the next step for Kelly and Tara was bringing in another companion, and we are so happy it’s been success!
So next time you’re at the Zoo, make sure you come by the African Savanna and check out our herd. We’re the ones with big ears, long trunks, and tusks! Hope to see you soon.
Keeper I, Elephants