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Photo by Rick Stevens
Porntip and elephant calf

Since the exciting event of the birth of Dubbo's first ever elephant calf, who continues to do really well in his first few weeks, both his mum, Thong Dee and aunty, Porntip have displayed tremendous maternal instincts in caring for and doting on him.

Neither Thong Dee or Porntip had any experience in raising or being around small calves prior to arriving in Australia back in 2006. Taronga's unrelated females bonded into a tight knit and functional herd who all did a great job in raising the three calves born in Sydney - Luk Chai (to Thong Dee in 2009), Pathi Harn (to Porntip in 2010) and Tukta (to Pak Boon in 2010) and the relationship between Thong Dee and Porntip has strengthened considerably since arriving in Dubbo together in April 2015.

This bond and their previous calf experience has been vital for the continued success of the Asian elephant breeding program out here in Dubbo.

Elephant females naturally live in bonded family groups called herds, where all the females play a supportive and protective role in helping to raise each other's calves. Young elephants can be very active and boisterous and the many eyes and ears of the herd are required to keep them from dangers as the calves grow and learn about herd life. Younger females also play an important role of baby sitter, allowing them to gain experience and allowing the nursing mothers to feed and to source the nutrition they need to raise the calf.

Whilst Porntip is older than Thong Dee, this is exactly the behaviour we are seeing from her at the moment with the calf. She is leading the calf around, interacting with him and generally helping out Thong Dee. This is indicative of the strong relationship between them and has been a very big reason of why the birth and first few weeks our first elephant calf’s life has been so successful.

By Elephant Keeper, Bradd Johnston

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