Asian elephant Lalana plays at the Safari Zoo on October 13, 2013 in Ramat Gan, Israel. Lalana was born one week ago. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Israel’s Safari Zoo has double the reason to celebrate: Its two newborn Asian elephant calves, Letangi and Lalana.
These animals are endangered in the wild, their populations having decreased by at least 50 percent during the past three generations, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Recent estimates put total numbers of individuals in the wild around 50,000. “The overall population trend of the Asian elephant has been downwards, probably for centuries,” notes the IUCN Red List profile. “This remains the case in most parts of its range, but especially in most of the countries of Southeast Asia.”
Part of the issue is that these animals, on average, don’t reach sexual maturity until around age 15, and then they take 20 to 22 months to give birth, typically to a single calf, according to the National Zoo. (This is the longest gestation period of any animal that we know of.)
Letangi was born on Aug. 3 to a seven-year-old elephant at the zoo called La-Belle. La-Belle’s mother, 28-year-old La-Petite, initially showed the new (and young) mom how to nurse, and only on the fourth day of Letangi’s life did she feed from her mother instead of her grandmother, states a news release from the zoo.
Lalana was born on Oct. 3 to La-Petite – technically making her La-Belle’s much younger sister. Lalana means “a girl” in Hindi, according to Zooborns, a site that tracks newborn animals around the world. Letangi means “slim girl,” and the name fits given she came out slightly underweight.
All four seem to be doing well, hanging out in the exhibit with Motek, a 53-year-old male elephant who is the father of both calves.
Affectionate prarie dogs. (Flickr/Creative Commons/Wolfy!)