ESCONDIDO — A big celebration got underway Aug. 12 on World Elephant Day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, as wildlife care specialists and conservation scientists raised awareness of the plight of elephants worldwide, hosted Safari Park’s Wild Weekend and celebrated the fourth birthday of male elephant calf Umzula-zuli, better known as Zuli.
World Elephant Day serves to bring attention to the plight of elephants in Africa and Asia. African elephants are currently listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species and face many threats in their native habitats, including habitat loss and fragmentation, challenges to human-elephant coexistence, competition for resources and poaching.
For decades, conserving African elephants has been a high priority for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Scientific studies conducted in the field in Africa and with the elephant herds at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park provide a unique opportunity to increase the understanding of the species and, working with partners in Kenya, help develop conservation solutions that can be applied in elephants’ native habitats.
Examples of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s elephant conservation work include a partnership with Save the Elephants to monitor the ranging patterns, social behavior, and health of orphaned elephant calves. Through the use of GPS technology, trail cameras and behavioral observations, researchers are learning what rehabilitated elephants need to thrive in their native habitats. And as part of an elephant movement study, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance scientists were able to measure the Safari Park herd’s step count and activity, as well as gather data on their auditory communication and behavior. Together, this helps the Alliance and its partners develop a clearer understanding of the social dynamics of a herd, and the important social relationship between a mother and her calf.
Increasing knowledge of the complexity of elephant social behaviors, and the understanding of their overall health needs a half a world away, has given San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and its conservation partners valuable insight into what successful conservation outcomes look like for elephants. For more information, visit http://sdzsafaripark.org.