Two new female Asian elephants are now on public view at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, after completing their quarantine following their arrival on Nov. 7.
The National Zoo, located at 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, introduced 19-year-old Trong Nhi (trong-nEE) and her daughter, 9-year-old Nhi Linh (nEE-lin), to the District today, saying that visitors will be able to observe the pair from 10 a.m. to noon daily at the Elephant Community Center.
A gift from the Rotterdam Zoo in South Holland, Netherlands, the mother and daughter pair will be joining five other elephants that already are residents at the Elephant Trails exhibit: females Bozie (47), Kamala (47), Maharani (32) and Swarna (47), as well as a 41-year-old male, Spike.
One visitor at the Elephant trails exhibit, Krestel Coffee, told The Wash that it was cool to see the elephants so close up. “It’s awesome that they’re finally able to start introducing the elephants and breeding them, especially since we get to see their interactions like two-feet in front of us,” Coffee said.
“Look at the tusks on that thing,” added Coffee’s friend, Charlie Gabriel, when Spike, the 41-year-old male, entered the enclosure.
Another visitor The Wash caught admiring the new elephants, Casey Fitzmaurice, emphasized how special this occasion was for him.
“I just happened to visit for a couple of days, so the chance to get to see these massive new elephants on their first day out of quarantine was truly special,” Fitzmaurice said.
Trong Nhi and Nhi Linh have already begun introductions with Spike and the other female elephants, facilitated by the elephant keepers. In these introductions, which the zoo has dubbed “howdy introductions,” the elephant team, allow the elephants to communicate and interact safely from behind a barrier.
Keepers observe these interactions to understand if the elephants are comfortable within each other’s presence, looking for calm and positive movements in their behavior.
One visitor asked a member of the elephant team how the introductions had been going, and he said that Trong Nhi and Nhi Linh’s introduction to Spike earlier today went well, with positive interactions, and ended with the elephants separating on their own.
Based on recommendations in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP), the National Zoo plans to breed Trong Nhi and Nhi Linh with Spike in hopes of fortifying the Asian elephant’s declining population in a healthy and genetically diverse manor.
In a press release, Bryan Amaral, acting associate director of animal care, said the National Zoo is thrilled with the progress Trong Nhi and Nhi Linh are making with their transition. Amaral said, “our animal care staff and [the new elephants] continue to learn from and about each other. While this is another sign of our commitment to Asian elephants, it also is significant for the sustainability of the Asian elephant population in North America as well.”
According to the zoo’s press release, the population of Asian elephants that originate from only 13 countries have suffered population decline due to habitat loss, conflict with neighboring human populations and poaching. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers the species endangered with estimates of between 30,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants remaining.
Updates on Trong Nhi and Nhi Linh’s progress can be found on the National Zoo’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.