Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Asian Elephant calf, Sabai, has reached his first major milestone – turning one year old on 2 November 2017.
To celebrate his first birthday, Keepers have prepared a giant-sized iceblock and fruit for Sabai to enjoy on exhibit alongside Thong Dee, and his aunty, Porntip – fitting treats for Sabai’s playful demeanour.
“Sabai is the first Asian Elephant calf ever to be born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. His arrival to experienced mother, Thong Dee, was very exciting for us,” Keeper Bobby Jo Vial said.
“We’re really pleased with his development over the past year. He currently weighs 568 kilograms, and is putting on around 10 kilograms per week.
“He’s very playful and curious, and one of his favourite pastimes is chasing the Guinea Fowl and Apostlebirds on exhibit. He loves the water and most days he enjoys a splash in the Elephant pool.
“He has a special bond with not only his mother, but also his aunty, Porntip. Sabai regularly runs back and forth between the two as he plays. The Elephant herd here is very family orientated, and Porntip has always been very attentive and caring towards Sabai,” Bobby Jo said.
Sabai’s older brother, eight-year-old Luk Chai, also shares Sabai’s exhibit from time to time. Despite his massive size compared to Sabai, Luk Chai is always gentle towards his younger brother.
Sabai gets a scrub every morning as part of the bathing routine for all of the Elephants at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. The Elephants are cleaned, and their feet and teeth checked, but it’s also a great time for strengthening the close bond between Keeper and Elephant.
Following a bath, Sabai copies his family’s behaviour and covers himself in dirt. This acts as a natural sunscreen and insect repellent, and helps the Elephants to cool down in warmer months.
Sabai can be seen on exhibit with his mother, Thong Dee, and aunty, Porntip, who is confirmed pregnant and due to give birth in July next year. The best time to see Sabai is at the Elephant Keeper Talk, at 11.45am daily.
Asian Elephants are classified as Endangered, with wild populations declining to fewer than 50,000 across 13 countries, mainly due to habitat loss. To help turn around this decline, Taronga works in the field with governments and conservation agencies in Asia, and also funds wildlife protection units and ranger stations in Thailand and Sumatra to help suppress elephant poaching.