Melbourne Zoo trumpets Elephant calf name

02 December 2022

Melbourne Zoo has revealed the name of its first female Asian elephant calf, born just two weeks ago on 16 November 2022.

Zoos Victoria members and donors cast more than 10,000 votes to choose the Thai name Aiyara [pronounced: Eye-are-a], meaning Elephant, from a selection of three names provided by the Royal Thai Embassy, Canberra. 

Melbourne Zoo Elephant Project Officer Lucy Truelson said the tiny calf is already growing into the nuances of her name.  

“Elephants are esteemed in Southeast Asia, and the name in Thai is not only symbolic of the species but also of loyalty, friendliness, good fortune and happiness,” Mrs Truelson said. “We are seeing some of those attributes play out in real time as little Aiyara interacts with her new-born brother.” 

The Asian elephant calves are taking time in private to bond not only with their mothers and the rest of the herd, but also with each other. Visitors are reminded that the calves will be small for many months to come and all visitors will have an opportunity to see the herd for themselves in good time.  

“We knew having calves close together in age would have huge benefits for their social development, and it’s wonderful to watch the two newborns share their first experiences together.  

“The male calf is learning so much from his half-sister, just as first-time mother Mali is learning from both her and Aiyara’s mother Dokkoon. 

 “We are so grateful for our member and visitor’s patience as we allow the herd to bond in private, away from public view, whilst they adjust to the new additions and form a strong unit in these early days. 

This weekend [Friday 2 December to Sunday 4 December], the entire Australian public will have the opportunity to name the male calf born on Friday 25 November through a competition conducted via Zoos Victoria's social media channels. The choice of Thai names include Mai Pai [pronounced: my-pie], Roi-Yim [pronounced: roy-yim] and Chaiyo [pronounced: ch-eye-yo], meaning bamboo, cheers and smile, respectively. 

A third calf is due to be born at Melbourne Zoo by early next year [2023] to expectant mother Num Oi. All three calves were conceived naturally, thanks to first-time sire Luk Chai who arrived at Melbourne Zoo from Taronga Western Plains Zoo in December 2020.  

Zoo members and visitors can follow both calves’ progress via Zoos Victoria’s official social channels, which will be the best way to stay updated on when the calves might be visible to the public. 

Zoos Victoria is part of a regional breeding program for Asian Elephants, which are classified as Endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List. Zoos Victoria also maintains an international partnership with Fauna and Flora International, which is undertaking fieldwork in Vietnam to establish wild elephant numbers and better understand the threats Asian Elephants face in the region. 

As previously announced, the entire Asian Elephant herd – including the calves - will move from Melbourne Zoo to Werribee Open Range Zoo in 2024, following completion of an $88million expansion funded by the Victorian Government.