The San Diego Zoo Safari Park‘s two youngest elephants enjoyed a high-spirited play session on Veterans Day.
While their mothers ate fresh hay, the 3-month-old male calf Umzula-zuli and the almost 2-month-old female Mkhaya engaged in some friendly sparring, pushing, head-butting, climbing and tugging behavior.
“These young calves are so much fun to watch,” said Curtis Lehman, animal care supervisor at the safari park. “They are almost the same size, so they naturally gravitate to each other. The calves’ moms know they are in a safe environment, so they’re allowing them to roam the exhibit—knowing that if the calves stray too far or get too rough with each other, an “auntie” will intercede and make sure they are OK.”
The calves have plenty of “aunties,” who help the moms out by alloparenting—a system of group parenting in which individuals other than the parents act in a parental role.
Zuli was born Aug. 12 and Kaia on Sept. 26. Both are still nursing, but beginning to mimic the older elephants in the herd.
The Safari Park is now home to 14 elephants—four adults and 10 youngsters. The adults were rescued in 2003 from the former Kingdom of Swaziland, where they had faced being culled.
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