Arrival of a new Asian elephant bull
We’ve been waiting for him for so long and he has finally arrived: Gandhi, a 12-year-old Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) has now become our new breeding male. What a moment of intense emotion when he came out of his transport crate! He takes over from our late Shinto who died in March 2015 at the age of 46.
Gandhi’s transfer from Heidelberg Zoo had been recommended a few months ago by the coordinator of the European Breeding Program for this species. A team from La Palmyre then traveled to Germany at the end of August to meet Gandhi and observe his behavior, before eventually agreeing to transfer him to La Palmyre.
Gandhi was born in 2006 at Copenhagen Zoo. In 2011, he joined Heidelberg and a group of three other young males of which he took the leadership in 2015 after the departure of the dominant bull. Then, as sexual maturity was approaching and given the importance of his genetic heritage, the EEP decided to transfer him into a herd of females.
After a short period of acclimatization in his new building built last winter and especially designed to facilitate safely training, Gandhi will be presented to our three females Alix, Malicia and Ziha. The aim being to start a new breeding herd, even though we must be patient as gestation in elephants lasts approximately 22 months, making it the longest of all mammals!
Today, it is very difficult to accurately assess the number of wild elephants in Asia because of the dense vegetation and the often steep terrain in which they live. They’re still found in a dozen countries including India (which has the largest population), Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia/Laos/Vietnam triangle, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia.
The large territories they need to find their food and meet their energy requirements are fragmenting and narrowing throughout their geographic range, causing conflicts with the human populations whose the pachyderms destroy or damage the crops. Poaching for ivory, their skin or their meat is another very important threat. Furthermore, more and more voices are raising to condemn the exploitation of the elephants by the tourism industry and denounce the mistreatment they suffer when trained for entertaining tourists during rides.
Elephants play a vital role in preserving the ecosystems in which they live by disseminating the seeds that their digestive system do not assimilate and by creating spaces in the vegetation that allow new plants to grow. The same plants that can feed other animals. That is why the long-term conservation of the elephants helps protecting many other species in the same areas.
La Palmyre Zoo contributes to the preservation of the Asian elephant in its natural environment by funding the NGO Hutan who monitors the species in the Kinabatangan region in Borneo where it works alongside local famers to prevent the damages to their crops and with the authorities in order to maintain and create forest corridors allowing the circulation of the animals.
The species is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List: being able to maintain and breed it in zoological parks in the long term is therefore of utmost importance.