Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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This January, Gung, the Asian Elephant bull currently cared for at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, will be moving to his new home at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

Gung came to Taronga as a young bull and has since sired four calves. He’s been a very successful breeding male and it is now time for him to enter into the next stage of his life.

Gung will be greeted by some familiar elephants when he arrives at Dubbo. His son, Luk Chai, is located there, as is Pathi Harn, the second Asian Elephant calf to be born at Taronga Zoo. Gung will become a mentor and positive role model to these younger Elephants as they grow up to be bulls themselves. He will also play an important role in ensuring the younger males are raised with the appropriate social skills.

“In the wild, male Elephants will form lose bachelor groups and learn from the other bulls,” says Gabe Virgona, Unit Supervisor of Elephants and Ungulates at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. “If there are a lot of resources around, you will also have bigger groups forming.”

Once Gung has arrived and settled into his new home at Dubbo, he will also have the chance to breed with the female Elephants based at Taronga Western Plains. “Moving the males around is a good way to ensure there is genetic diversity in the regional population,” Gabe says.

Several of the Elephant Keepers at Dubbo have strong bonds with Gung, having worked with him before, and are looking forward to his arrival. Gung’s routine at Dubbo will also be relatively similar to what he experienced in Sydney. “We run very similar programs here and at Dubbo. So all of the feeding, cleaning and husbandry tasks that he is normally used to will also be performed out there,” says Gabe. “We are sad to see Gung go but are also looking forward to seeing where this next part of his life takes him,” he adds.

Commonly Asked Questions

When is Gung moving to Taronga Western Plains Zoo? Planning and logistics for the transfer of Gung are currently being organised, and it’s expected that he will be moved in late January.

How will he transported there? A specially designed crate will be fixed onto a truck. Our Elephant Keepers have begun implementing a training and conditioning plan to ensure Gung is familiar and comfortable with the crate prior to the move occurring. When he travels to Dubbo, Gung will be accompanied by staff from Taronga Sydney and Taronga Western Plains.

Will the females elephants at Taronga Zoo Sydney miss Gung? Natural female Elephant herds are matriarchal lead and are made up of a group of related females. This is what we have supported at Taronga Zoo. Pak Boon, Tukta and Jai Dee, with the support from Tang Mo, have established a natural herd. When a male matures, he leaves the herd and can live at times with other males or alone. Males and female herds do not naturally spend long periods of time together.

What will Gung’s life be like at Taronga Western Plains Zoo? Gung will have interactions with the young bulls, acting as a role model to them, as well as with the female Elephants and the calves that they produce together. Gung will also have daily interaction with the Keepers, during which time he will receive enrichment and stimulation to make sure he stays fit and healthy. He will have access to sand baths, pools to swim in and mud wallows, and his days will be similar to what he experienced at Taronga Zoo Sydney.