The crowds were thin at the Dallas Zoo on a Wednesday morning, but the mid-week visitors quickly flocked together at the Giants of the Savanna exhibit when a 332 pound, 5-month-old came bouncing into the fields.
The zoo’s new elephant calf named Ajabu made his debut alongside his mom Mililo just after 10 a.m.
The 14-year-old Mililo came to the zoo earlier this year after conservation officials in Swaziland, Africa had more of the animals than they could keep, but zoo keepers didn’t know that she was pregnant.
"So we brought those animals here to the US, and a couple months after that we had a baby elephant calf born very early on a Sunday morning,” said Dallas Zoo Senior Director of Living Collections Harrison Edell.
So, Edell’s staff had to quickly prepare the Savanna habitat for him.
They spend 15 months “baby proofing” the habitat that was intended for full-sized elephants originally; forcing them to close off some areas with boulders, create barriers to keep the 5-month-old out of deep ponds, and take other safety precautions.
Safety is a top priority especially after the accidental death of the zoo’s baby giraffe Kipenzi in July 2015; the animal ran into part of her habitat and broke her neck.
Edell said that was simply a bad accident, despite the precautions they took in that exhibit.
They say Ajabu can play safely with the steps they’ve taken and with watchful mom Mililo never far away.
For now, the baby and mom will be kept in their own area of the exhibit until Ajabu is a little older and can safely meet some of the other adult elephants.
Visitors can see him on display in the Giants of the Savanna exhibit.