Taronga’s elephant calf, Luk Chai, has decided to get a head start on swimming for summer.
Keepers have discovered him swimming with his mother and aunts in the moat already, with the herd favouring overcast or rainy days for their swimming expeditions.
The pools are a big favourite for the elephants and there have also been mass swimming parties during the visits to bull elephant, Gung, by the herd’s senior females.
Elephant Keeper, Lucy Melo, said today: “Luk Chai has learned really quickly not to get out of his depth in the water. He goes into the moat at the end near the elephants’ barn, which has steps, making it easy for him to control how deep he gets.”
“Even if his mother goes right under the water, he doesn’t follow her, although he does keep trying to reach a large blue barrel which floats in the moat.”
The young calf, only four months old today, also likes to be in thick of things during ball games, but tends to hog the ball, eventually flopping down right on top of it.
Lucy said Luk Chai is fitting into the herd extremely well. He is learning polite behaviours and already knows not to barge through gates to be first into the paddock.
She said: “He’s still gaining about a kilo in weight daily and is now about 240 kg. As he likes to use us as a scratching post we’re all very well aware of how heavy he is. He’s also always after more milk from his mother and squeals when there’s no more.”
“Luk Chai is also experimenting with solid food, mimicking the older elephants by starting to chew and swallow hay and other food. His teeth are coming through and he’s always trying to gets treats from our treat bags. The first thing you notice is a little trunk trying to sneak its way into the bag on our belt to get pieces of fruit.”
Lucy said the way the elephants are all working together, as a naturally related family herd should, has given keepers a great feeling of optimism for how the cows have adapted to the new addition to their family.
The aunties have learned much that will be invaluable to them when it is their turn to become mothers. With Porntip due in February/March and Pak Boon due in November 2010, this won’t be too far away.
Luk Chai’s father, Gung, is also prospering, enjoying his new barn and pool complex. Although the females insisted, as they do in the wild, that he move out, they enjoy visiting Gung and join him in sessions in his swimming pools.
Taronga was well prepared to meet Gung’s needs, as bull elephants in the wild live outside the herd, only joining the females to mate.