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Photo by Lachlan McFeeters
Elephant calf at bath time in Dubbo

Our new arrival has been progressing very well over his first two weeks. He has so far exceeded our team’s expectations in terms of developing confidence and learning key behaviours from his mother Thong Dee and aunty Porntip. Our calf has flown through some of his significant milestones, standing within half an hour of birth, drinking after only 90 minutes, and interacting with keepers within the first 24 hours. With these hurdles overcome successfully, the team had no worries about him making his public debut on Thursday 10November, and he showed no signs of slowing down as Thong Dee led him out onto exhibit for the first time.

Even though he was born in an off display exhibit, the challenge was navigating through a raceway into a new environment,  with unfamiliar sights, sounds and  smells, a crowd of onlookers, different substrates and exposure to other members of our elephant herd. This would be a daunting task for any new addition; however he walked out confidently, under mum’s feet all the way to the front of the exhibit (much to the delight of onlookers). He remained close to Porntip and Thong Dee throughout the day, scurrying back and forth, while keepers and visitors watched on with adoration.

On 4 November, Keepers in the TWPZ Elephant program had the task of getting the first weight on our newest arrival. Weighing an elephant calf can be a challenging task, as they are still discovering how to use their limbs, and have natural reservations towards new objects such as scales. Our keepers did an amazing job of encouraging Thong Dee into a position which allowed the calf to stand on the scales. He recorded a weight of 101kg (222lb 10.67oz), which was only a few kilograms heavier than his older brother Luk Chai, and an average weight for a two day old calf.

Over the past week he has made significant progress in controlling his trunk, using it to grasp the hose during bath routines, as well as manipulate hay just like Thong Dee. Our keepers have observed him putting hay into his mouth, which is a big step in recognising hard feeds, having learnt this important behaviour from his mum and aunty. He has also started to consume a small amount of Thong Dee’s faeces, which is the first step in establishing healthy gut flora within his digestive system, a natural behaviour for elephants.

By Elephant Keeper, Lachlan McFeeters