The National Zoo’s three new female Asian elephants—Kamala (39), Swarna (39) and Maharani (23)—made their public debut in one of the outdoor yards on Elephant Trails for the first time today. The elephants arrived at the Zoo May 23 and have spent the last month in quarantine— standard procedure for new arrivals to the Zoo. On loan from the Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, they will join the Zoo’s herd of four Asian elephants: females Ambika (66), Shanthi (39), Bozie (38) and male Kandula (12).
During their quarantine period, the elephants had access to five stalls inside the elephant barn and one off-exhibit outdoor yard. Today, they explored a larger outdoor portion of their new habitat. The new elephants will be gradually introduced to the Zoo’s current residents and the Zoo anticipates that the herd will form a social group like those found in the wild. Although the two groups of elephants were not able to physically interact while the females from Calgary Zoo were in quarantine, they have been able to see and hear each other. According to elephant-keeper staff, there has been a lot of communication between the two groups. Elephants ‘talk’ using low-frequency infrasound to create a broad range of sounds from very low frequency rumbles to higher frequency snorts, barks, roars, cries and other idiosyncratic calls. Asian elephants also produce chirps.
The Zoo’s Elephant Trails exhibit was designed in keeping with the best practices for Asian elephant management and can accommodate a multigenerational herd of eight to 10 adult elephants and their young.
Kamala and Swarna were born around 1975 in Sri Lanka and lived at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage until 1976. Maharani, Kamala’s second calf, was born in July 1990 at the Calgary Zoo. Records indicate that Kamala, Swarna, Bozie and Shanthi all lived at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka for a time. There is no way to definitively determine if Kamala and Swarna will recognize Bozie and Shanthi.
The Zoo will continue to provide updates on the elephants on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and through National Zoo News. Visitors can see Shanthi, Ambika, Bozie and Kandula on exhibit at Elephant Trails. At select times and pending elephant behavior, Kamala, Swarna and Maharani will also be on exhibit at Elephant Trails. The elephant cam will continue to provide opportunities to see the new elephants when they are not on exhibit.
Posted: 23 June 2014