Elephant Alphabet – U is for Umngani (new mom)

September 27, 2011

Umngani from the San Diego Safari Park has had a new baby Mon. (9.26). Umngani and all three of her calves are in a smaller enclosure for observation. The baby followed the mother around on shaky legs. In the day, the baby appeared for quite a while to be too short to reach Umngani’s teat for milk, or it had not discovered its location. But the baby appears to be nursing regularly during the night.

Khosi (5 year-old daughter of Umngani) appears ansy. Usually she hangs around close to Umngani with her little brother but the family has been frequently kept in the smaller enclosure (for part of the day) to await the baby’s delivery.

Ingadze (2 1/2 year-old son of Umngani) seems not quite ready to leave the side of his mom, but he also does not appear to be pushing the new baby away from the mother or competing for breast milk. Usually a calf would take breast milk until around 3 years of age (sometimes longer).

The other elephants are in the 2 larger enclosures and seem to be going about business as usual, but some are watching the mother and baby from the separating gate. Even Mabu (the father) was watching for a time, whereas in the wild, the male is not involved with the child’s development and lives mostly separate from females he has mated. I wonder if the elephants had a celebratory trumpeting riot when the baby was born.

A newborn elephant’s average weight is 250 lbs and Umngani is about 6,250 lbs. Umngani weighs over 24 times the newborn’s weight. It is a marvel that a baby can be 2.5 times an adult human’s weight. Kudos to Umngani for what appears a wondrous feat (about 21 months pregnancy) and hope that the baby’s siblings can adjust well to the little one. Hopefully they will get to sleep this night.

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