San Diego Zoo Surprised By 281-Pound Elephant Calf's Early Arrival (And Heft!)

Playing Big Surprise! Elephant Calf Breaks Weight Record at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park was blessed last week with its second elephant calf in less than two months.

This time, though, keepers were taken by surprise for a couple of reasons.

For one, 28-year-old mother Umngani wasn't expected to give birth quite so soon.

And, for another, her baby girl weighed a whopping 281 pounds at birth!

Per a news release, keepers were anticipating the birth, but were counting on the average gestation period for African elephants at 649 days, or 22 months.

“Knowing Umngani’s birth window was between Sept. 12 and Oct. 18, we had been placing her in a small area of the yard at night, separate from the rest of the herd,” said Curtis Lehman, animal care supervisor at the Safari Park. “She has given birth three other times, and those calves arrived late—so when we checked on her first thing this morning, we were surprised and thrilled to see her caring for her healthy newborn."

The calf, which is not yet named, is the biggest calf ever to be born at the Safari Park. A newborn calf generally weighs 200 to 268 pounds at birth.

The baby and mother appeared to bond immediately as the calf started to nurse right after her birth. 

Animal care staff also 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” (with whom the new calf shares a birthday); 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.

"Umngani is a great mom, and she and the baby are doing very well," Lehman said.

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