Asian Elephant calf Man Jai has graduated from the paddling pools to the 4.5m deep pool in the first Trail of the Elephants paddock.
Until now has the deep pool has been off-limits for the six-month-old calf, but today he joined his big sister Mali, their mother Dokkoon and the other three adult females in enjoying a lengthy swim.
The cool morning didn’t put them off, as the herd is keen to swim just about any time. CCTV footage last winter even showed them going for a dip in the middle of the night.
Swimming is a natural behaviour for elephant calves, and Man Jai has shown a strong interest in water from very early in his life.
He took to the shallow pool in the Cow Barn paddock very enthusiastically when only days old, and since then he has also enjoyed the slightly deeper pool in the third paddock, adjacent to the Bull Barn.
Trail of the Elephants is composed of three interconnecting paddocks and two barns, so the elephants are able to move between all these areas.
Trail of the Elephants Manager Dominic Moss says that visitors can expect to see Man Jai swimming most days from now on.
Man Jai is the fourth elephant calf born at Melbourne Zoo. His mother Dokkoon is also the mother of Mali, the Zoo’s first-ever elephant calf and also the first female calf ever born in Australia.
Mali is showing a strong maternal instinct already, helping to watch over her rapidly-growing baby brother.
Elephant calves are weaned at some time between 18 months and four years of age, so Man Jai is still relying on Dokkoon’s milk for his nutrition, but he is beginning to play with the food the others are eating.
The successful breeding at Melbourne Zoo is part of the regional endangered species breeding program for Asian Elephants established in 2006, when three young females arrived from Thailand at Avalon Airport.