Photo of the week: Birthday Girl


Belgium’s most famous elephant, Kai-Mook, turns 10 today

Free entry for kids born in 2009

Ten years ago today, Belgium experienced the birth of a baby elephant for the first time. This photo of beloved Planckendael resident Kai-Mook shows her with her own daughter, Tun Kai.

The Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp, which runs both Antwerp Zoo and Planckendael animal park in Mechelen, is celebrating Kai-Mook’s 10th birthday this weekend. The birth of Kai-Mook was a major media event, as she was the first elephant ever born in Belgium.

In fact, Kai-Mook’s birth on 17 May 2009 was an event in all of Europe: Very few Asian elephants are born in European zoos every year, and they often do not survive. Planckendael, for instance, lost one of the three babies born there between December 2017 and April 2018.

More than 100,000 people in Belgium and abroad watched Kai-Mook’s birth via live cam, and non-stop media coverage followed. The zoo saw its best year ever, as people line up in droves over the next several months to get a glimpse of the fast-growing baby.

Becoming a mum

It was a bit of a boon that Kai-Mook was a girl. That meant she could safely stay in Antwerp. A male would have eventually gone into the European breeding exchange programme.

Nine years ago, the zoo celebrated Kai-Mook’s first birthday with a giant cake made of hay, fruit and vegetables. Born at 80 kilograms, Kai-Mook weighed in at 600 kilograms on her first birthday.

In 2012, Kai-Mook and the rest of the Asian elephant herd moved to Planckendael. Last year Kai-Mook gave birth to her first baby, Tun Kai.

During Kai-Mook’s birthday weekend – from Friday to Sunday – all kids born in 2009 get into Planckendael for free.

Photo: Birthday girl Kai-Mook and her year-old daughter live it up at Planckendael
©Jonas Verhulst/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.

surface area in hectares

810 000

annual visitors in 2012


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