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Taronga’s female Asian Elephant calf, Tukta, received a traditional Thai Buddhist blessing today to celebrate her first birthday.

The little female ‘s older playmates, Luk Chai and Pathi Harn, joined her with the adult females of the Taronga herd for the blessing led by Venerable Phra Abhijaya Abhipunno, Abbot of Buddharangsee Temple at Annandale, with the Venerable Phra Prasert Eimruek-ngam and Venerable Phramaha Wirat Chaipanya. The monks conducted the blessing at the request of the Royal Thai Consulate in Sydney for Taronga. 

The blessing took place after breakfast when Zookeepers brought the herd to the front of the exhibit for the blessing and some special food treats. The ceremony followed Tukta’s birthday on November 2.

Although Tukta is still drinking milk  from her mother, Pak Boon, the youngster is already eating hay and other solid food treats as part of the daily development program for the elephants.

Elephant Manager, Gary Miller, said Tukta has a very strong personality like her mother and is a very active and mischievous playmate for the other calves.

The calf, which now weighs about nearly 600 kg, was Taronga’s first female calf and the third calf in the Zoo’s conservation breeding program for the endangered animals.

Royal Thai Consul General, Mr Biravij Suwanpradhes, said: “This is a another great success for this breeding program which with Taronga and Melbourne Zoos efforts have now delivered five calves since 2009. This is excellent evidence of the benefits of the cooperation between Thailand and Australia.”

Zoo visitors are enthralled by the antics of the three youngsters and are learning about th Zoo’s efforts with in situ conservation and Taronga-based breeding programs.

Taronga brought five young Asian elephants including, bull Gung to Sydney in 2006 as part of Australia’s first regional conservation management plan for Asian Elephants, whose numbers in the wild have fallen from around 200,000 to as few as 34,000 in a century.

Taronga’s Director, Cameron Kerr, said: “Zoo staff are very proud of this achievement and delighted to be able to share some good news with our many friends in Thailand as they battle with terrible flooding.”

“The capacity of modern Zoos to provide successful, genetically managed breeding programs for Asian Elephants and other species is now a critical part of human efforts to provide a sustainable future for wildlife.”

For more information visit the Taronga Media Centre