Christmas Day elephant baby born at Planckendael

Summary

The first of three baby elephants expected at Planckendael animal park in Mechelen has arrived – making its entrance on Christmas Day

‘Baby S’

It was a memorable Christmas Day at Planckendael animal park in Mechelen yesterday, as elephant May Tagu gave birth to a healthy baby girl. It was announced about a year ago that the 12-year-old elephant was pregnant.

Planckendael is home to two more pregnant females: May Tagu’s half-sister, Kai-Mook, and mother, Phyo-Phyo, are also expecting. The father of all three babies is Chang, who arrived in Mechelen in 2012. Last year, he was moved to Copenhagen as part of an Asian elephant breeding programme.

The birth yesterday went exceptionally well. The entire elephant family gathered around May Tagu in a ring as the baby was born – just as they would do in the wild. The healthy birth is a relief to park staff, as May Tagu’s first baby, born in 2015, was sickly and died within a few weeks.

All babies born in Planckendael this year are being given names that begin with an “S”. The public can help decide the name of the baby elephant on the park’s YouTube channel. In keeping with tradition, Asian elephants are given Asian names: The choices are Suki, Sumalee and Sawadee.

The Asian elephant population has decreased by some 50% over the last 100 years and today only 40,000 to 50,000 of them exist across India, China, Thailand and other neighbouring countries. Planckendael is part of the Brahmagiri-Tirunelli Elephant Corridor run by the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation. The project sees wildlife agents protecting elephants that travel through parts of southern India becoming more and more inhabited by people.

Photo: Planckendael’s newest elephant took to its feet and raised its trunk very quickly – a good sign of a healthy baby
©Jonas Verhulst/Planckendael

THIS ARTICLE WAS UPDATED AT 19.30 ON 26 DECEMBER

Planckendael

Together with Antwerp Zoo, Planckendael is one of Flanders’ two major animal parks. Located in Mechelen, the park was originally established as a refuge for tired and injured animals from the Antwerp Zoo.
History - In 1956, the Royal Society of Animals of Antwerp (KMDA) bought the Planckendael estate, which was built in 1780. The animal park opened four years later.
Expansion - As part of a new €5-million master plan, Planckendael recently introduced a new theme continent (America), updated several animal complexes and grounds and is welcoming entirely new species starting this year.
Sustainable - Every year since 2011, the park has been awarded the Green Key international eco-label for its sustainability efforts. It is one of only nine attractions in Flanders to carry the label.
42

surface area in hectares

810 000

annual visitors in 2012

33

Flemish government KMDA subsidy for 2012-2016 period in millions of euros