Taronga’s Asian Elephant Conservation Breeding Program reached a milestone today when Australia’s first elephant calf Luk Chai turned two.
Luk Chai was born in the early hours of July 4th 2009, to first-time mother Thong Dee who was originally a street elephant in Bangkok, before coming to Australia with the help of the Thai and Australian Governments.
“Two years of age is a bit of a milestone for baby elephants. Once they make it past two-years-old, they’re pretty much on their way to becoming a juvenile. Up until two years of age, they can be more susceptible to some diseases.” said Taronga Elephant Manger, Gary Miller.
“He was born at 96kg and he’s now a whopping 830kg. He’s grown like a little weed. He’s got a great personality- he gets on with everybody very well. We’re really happy with him.”
“Luk Chai is kind of a golden boy and he can pretty much do no wrong. Everybody loves him - all the female elephants think he’s great. The only one who actually chastises him at all is his own mum, and that’s usually over food, because he wants to eat her food, and she goes “Hey, eat your own!” But other than that, he just gets on well with everyone.”
Luk Chai was the first of three elephant calves to be born at Taronga Zoo since the herd arrived in 2006. Miracle calf Pathi Harn is now over a year old and 620 kilograms and female calf, Tukta, is just over six months old and 436 kilograms.
“He loves the other two calves dearly. He lies down and lets them climb on him and he’s a good role model. He’s teaching them how to play and how to swim and stuff like that. He’s a real mentor to the little ones,” said Gary
Luk Chai is the son of Gung which also arrived from Thailand in 2006. Now a mature bull, Gung resides in his own custom-built exhibit next to Taronga’s recently refurbished and heritage-listed Elephant Temple. He is visited throughout the day by keepers who who spend lots of time with him. In the wild, bulls live separately from the herd except when mating occurs.
“I guess one of the neat things is that we’re able to take Luk Chai, his mother, Thong Dee, and Tang Mo, over to visit Gung. So Gung has actually met his son, and they get on very well together. Luk Chai is a little bit of a clone of his dad, and they have a lot of fun playing together so it’s really good,” said Gary.
To mark his first two years, Luk Chai was given his favourite food treats to eat and share with the other members of the herd.