Blackpool Zoo prepare for super-sized arrivals

Preparing for the arrival of a baby is always exciting, but imagine the anticipation keepers at Blackpool Zoo are feeling as they get ready to welcome two 100kg, not so little ones to their herd of Asian elephants.

Plans are well underway to get Base Camp ready for the first elephant births in the zoo’s history, including baby proofing the surroundings for the new arrivals.

Mother and daughter duo, Noorjahan and Esha, are both due to give birth to the hugely anticipated babies in late 2024.

First up was the delivery of specially selected oak tree trunks, which have been strategically placed around the indoor habitat. The elephants use them to exfoliate their skin and they will be useful to push against during labour.

A super-sized delivery of 500 tonnes of a premium quality sand substrate is also on the way. Arriving 30 tonnes at a time, the elephants can give themselves a pedicure while digging and it also acts like a memory foam mattress when they lie down to sleep.

The sand is quick draining and can be moved by keepers to create new areas for the elephants to explore. Undulating mounds provide physical benefits and will help the calves develop important muscles and joint strength.

Section Head, Adam Kenyon, has been overseeing the preparations. He said: “It is an incredibly exciting time for everyone here at Blackpool Zoo and we have essentially been getting ready for this for more than a decade.

“From day one, when we were putting together ideas for a new elephant habitat, we worked tirelessly to ensure the best standards of husbandry and welfare for the herd, so we naturally incorporated the potential of babies arriving.

“Just like in humans there may be unknown factors that can lead to complications during gestation and delivery, but we want to ensure we have left no stone unturned in our efforts to ready the house for the new arrivals.

“Complex social matriarchal groups mean that the females in the herd help to care for the young of other elephants, which is vital for the development of calves.

“This means that Minbu, who is already an experienced mother, Tara, who has played a key role in Esha’s upbringing, Kate and father Emmett all have a role in the development of the youngsters.

“With the Asian elephant listed as endangered and numbers declining in the wild, these babies are a massive boost for everyone involved in the European Ex Situ Programme (EEP) for the management of this endangered species.

 “By collaborating, sharing research and exchanging ideas, zoos play a crucial role in the global effort to protect and conserve these highly intelligent and complex animals.

“In addition, studies carried out in zoos can monitor elephant behaviour, physiology and reproductive biology more closely to provide valuable insights that can further inform conservation strategies.”

Asian elephants have been listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1986 and the population is estimated to have declined by at least 50 percent over the last three generations, which means that EEPs serve as a crucial lifeline for ensuring the survival of the species.

Project Elephant underpins Blackpool Zoo’s ongoing commitment to the endangered Asian elephant.  It focuses on a multi-faceted approach to the continuous long-term management, breeding and welfare needs of the zoo’s elephants, with special focus on their physiological and psychological wellbeing.

Base Camp, which is Blackpool Zoo’s largest ever single investment, combines the UK’s largest indoor elephant house with several outdoor habitats, all of which were meticulously designed to support the complicated needs of Asian elephants.

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