The Smithsonian National Zoo is home to 6 Asian Elephant, Elephas maximus, females. Three of the animals came to the zoo just three years ago after the new habitat opened. They were formally housed at the Calgary Zoo in Canada, but because of climate restrictions spent most of the year inside an elephant "barn". With the recommendation of the AZA and under the association's newer guidelines, zoos in Canada are de-acquisitioning their elephants in favor of zoo's in warmer climates. Additionally, the AZA is seeking placements that keep elephants in groups of at least 4 to promote their social wellbeing.
One complaint that I have to make of the National Zoo--the sightlines suck! Having established this fact, the first elephant we meet is the youngest in the herd. Her name is Maharani, but she will answer to Rani. She is one of the three elephants from Calgary. She was born in 1990 on July 14th. In Canada, she was naturally bred three times, and in each case the newborns died. She is currently being prepped, after a hiatus of 4 years, for her first round of artificial insemination. It is hoped that by the summer she will be pregnant an on her journey of a 2 year gestation period. The last picture of Rani catches her mother, Kamala, in the background.
|Maharani and her mother in the background, Kamala.|
Later I caught some photos of Ambika. Ambika is 69! and the second oldest Asian Elephant in North America. She was in India in the year it became an independent nation, 1948. Worked her early life from age 8 to age 13 in the logging industry in India, and in 1961 came to the National Zoo. She has seen it all! One can only wonder what she makes of her newly designed habitat, one of the most spacious and interactive for Asian Elephants in a zoo in the world. At her age, she often naps in the afternoon. She does this standing up--and in the first photo with her trunk slung over the bar of the enclosure. Ambika is the only member of the herd from India, the other five are from genetic strains native to Sri Lanka.
|The new enclosure is one of the largest in any zoo for Asian Elephants|