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Eleven African elephants, born in South Africa's Kruger National Park, were translocated to Swaziland in 1994. When scheduled to be culled, seven were brought to San Diego and four to Lowry Park Zoo in Florida in August 2003. Their numbers have grown, and in March 2012, five of these elephants were moved to the Reid Park Zoo in Arizona to form a new herd. In August 2015, another of the elephants moved to a new home with a herd at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, as part of a breeding loan recommended by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) program, managed within zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In April 2019, in another SSP-recommended move, two nine-year-old male elephants traveled to a new home at the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas. In June 2019, males Lutsvando "Luti" and Ingadze traveled to Birmingham Zoo in an SSP-recommended move; and in July 2019, male Msholo moved to Zoo Atlanta. Our nine current herd members are listed below:
Born: Safari Park, September 26, 2018
September 2018 weight (at birth): 281 pounds
Elephant keepers at the Safari Park received a big surprise when they came in to work on the morning of September 27, 2018 and saw that 28-year-old Umngani had given birth to a healthy 281-pound female calf—the biggest calf ever to be born at the Safari Park (calves usually weigh 200 to 268 pounds at birth). By late morning, with the baby appearing healthy and bonded to her mother, animal care staff offered the pair the opportunity to move into a larger area of the habitat with Umngani's other three offspring: 7-year-old male Inhlonipho or "Neepo", 9-year-old male Ingadze or "Gadze", and 12-year-old female Khosi. The new calf was also introduced to 8-year-old male Emanti and 11-year-old female Phakamile or "Kami". The other elephants appeared very excited to meet the new baby—rushing to her, and touching and smelling her with their trunks, all under the watchful eye of her protective mother.
Born: Safari Park, August 12, 2018
August 2018 weight (one day after birth): 277 pounds
In the final hours of World Elephant Day at the Safari Park, just before midnight on August 12, 2018, mother Ndulamitsi gave birth to Umzula-zuli, a male calf, called "Zuli." The next day, Zuli was greeted by the herd's other elephants, who gathered around him—eager to touch him, trumpet, and smell him with their trunks. Zuli's father is Mabu, who now lives with a herd at Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona, based on breeding recommendations of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' African Elephant Species Survival Plan. The move, which allows him to interact with other females, is not unlike what bull elephants experience in the wild. Elephants live in a matriarchal society, and males move in and out of herds for breeding purposes.
Swazi "The Fearful Leader"
Born: Kruger National Park, South Africa, approx. 1991
Weight: 6,800 pounds
Swazi has been the dominant female in the herd since she arrived. Named in honor of Swaziland, she is the now the largest female in the herd. Any ruckus in the herd and Swazi comes charging over to see what’s going on. Swazi gave birth to her first, long-awaited calf—eMacembe, a male—on April 12, 2010, and a female, Qinisa, on August 28, 2012. Keepers suspect that Swazi's vision is not as acute as the other elephants; she is often startled by the less-dominant animals, sometimes even the calves.
Umngani "The Diva"
Born: Kruger National Park, South Africa, approx. 1990
Weight: 6,250 pounds
Umngani (OOM-gah-nee), whose name means “friend” in Siswati, is the mother of Mkhaya, a new female calf born in September 2018—as well as Khosi, Ingadze, and Inhlonipho. Umngani is sweet natured and seems to love her training sessions, often roaring at the keepers if her session ends too soon. She is also one of our most photogenic females and seems to pose for pictures. Umngani has the longest tusks in the herd, and her ears are often flared out as if she is listening. As beautiful as she is, though, she is also one of the messiest elephants in the herd. You can tell which keepers have been working with her: they are frequently spackled with wet mud from her drippy trunk!
Ndulamitsi "The Sweet One"
Born: Kruger National Park, South Africa, approx. 1990
Weight: 6,400 pounds
Ndulamitsi is very sweet toward her keepers and often approaches them to solicit a rubdown. She likes to swim and take mud baths to cool down. “Ndula” became the first mom of the herd when she gave birth to Vus’musi; son Lutsandvo was born in 2010. In August 2018, she gave birth to son Umzula-zuli. You can identify Ndula, whose name means “taller than trees” due to her great height, by her right tusk, which curves underneath her trunk.
Khosi "The Babysitter"
Born: Safari Park, September 11, 2006
November 2012 weight: 3,206 pounds
Khosi (KO-see) is the first offspring of Mabu and Umngani. Her name is short for a name that means "heart of a queen" in SiSwati in recognition of Yvonne Larsen, former president of the San Diego Zoo's board of trustees. Khosi's personality is very relaxed, and she likes to watch over all of her younger siblings. This maternal behavior is especially strong with little brothers Ingadze and Inhlonipho, and she babysits whenever possible. Elephants both in the wild and in zoos often rub their tusks against hard surfaces, which sometimes damages them.
Phakamile "Little Gymnast"
Born: Safari Park, September 19, 2007
November 2012 weight: 2,685 pounds
Phakamile is the daughter of Umoya and Mabu. Her name means "noble strength" to honor the longtime support of Audrey Steele Burnand, whose first name means the same. “Kami” is a great swimmer, is good at balancing on logs or rocks, and has lots of energy. She is also the “class clown,” often swinging her trunk around like a helicopter. Her little trumpet is so distinct that keepers can tell her vocalizations apart from all of the other calves. Kami really enjoys her little half-siblings (she is Qinisa's top babysitter), and is a big sister to full brother Emanti. Kami's right tusk is very short; a tusk injury required a pulpotomy.
Born: Safari Park, September 26, 2011
November 2012 weight: 1,000 pounds
Neepo is mother Umngani's third baby. Inhlonipho (pronounced in-low-NEE-po), a SiSwati name that can mean respect, honor, reverence, or good manners, was born in the upper yard of the elephant habitat. His father is Mabu, his big sister is Khosi, and his big brother is Ingadze. He often instigates wrestling matches with the other boys, running to Mom if the play gets too rowdy.
Born: Safari Park, August 28, 2012
June 2013 weight: 694 pounds
Qinsa is mother Swazi's second calf. Her father is Mabu and her big brother is eMacembe. Qinisa's name is a SiSwati word that means to act with energy, act determinedly, fulfill one’s word, or speak the truth. The name is pronounced (!) EEN-EE-seh (! is a tongue pop instead of a q sound). Her name is very fitting, as she seems determined (successfully) to develop faster than any of our other calves. Watch out, world!