At age 27 days, the baby elephant born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park finally has a name, the park announced Tuesday. It’s Mkhaya, but staff is calling her Kaia.
The youngest member of the herd — born Sept. 26 to mother Umngani (pronounced OOM-gah-nee) — was named for a wildlife reserve in the southern African nation of Swaziland.
The name follows the Safari Park’s tradition of naming African elephants using Swahili-based words.
The youngster’s name was selected after consultation with wildlife experts in Kenya.“I find the name Mkhaya well fitting, as it agrees with our naming considerations linked to place of rescue,” said Paul Leringato, chief executive officer of the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary. “Because its mother is from Swaziland, the naming tells a good story.”
San Diego Zoo Global collaborates with the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Africa, which operates a community-based elephant orphanage that cares for injured and orphaned elephants in the Namunyuk region of Kenya.
Many of the orphan elephant calves at the community-run center are given Swahili-based names derived from the areas where they were found.
Collaboration on naming is not the only way the two populations of elephants — at the Safari Park and in Kenya — influence each other, the park said.“The recent births of two elephants at the Safari Park provide an opportunity for animal care experts in San Diego and in Africa to share information about growth rates, nutrition and maternal care, to help improve animal care and conservation efforts in both countries,” the park said in a statement.
Mkhaya joins a herd of 13 other elephants — four adults and nine youngsters. The adults were rescued in 2003 from Swaziland, where they had faced being culled due to challenges related to reduced habitat.
The two new calves and their herd may be seen at the Safari Park’s elephant habitat and on the Safari Park’s Elephant Cam, at sdzsafaripark.org/elephant-cam.
The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is a community-based wildlife conservation program in Kenya. Created as part of a community effort to care for and protect the elephants and other wildlife in the region, the sanctuary was established by the Northern Rangelands Trust and works with the Kenya Wildlife Service to manage the animals in its care.
During October, Kids Free presented by Mission Fed gives free admission to children ages 11 and younger, to both the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the San Diego Zoo.
During Kids Free, the Safari Park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and the zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, except during HalGLOWeen festivities — October 26, 27 and 28 — when the zoo closes at 8 p.m.
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