Baby elephant born at Safari Park on World Elephant Day

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s newest elephant was introduced Tuesday to the rest of the herd, but he’s sure to stand out.

Umzula-zuli — “Zuli” for short — weighs more than 270 pounds, making him the largest elephant calf ever born at the Safari Park, according to zoo officials.

Ndlulamitsi, nicknamed “Ndlula,” gave birth to Zuli without complications just before midnight on Sunday, which happened to be World Elephant Day. After a short separation from the rest of the herd to allow for bonding, Zuli met the park’s other pachyderms — nine of which are youngsters — Tuesday morning.

“This morning’s introduction of `Zuli to the other 12 elephants in the herd was one of the most endearing animal scenes I have had the privilege of seeing,” said Mindy Albright, the Safari Park’s lead keeper. “The other elephants were clearly excited to meet the new baby — touching him, trumpeting and smelling him with their trunks.”

Early visitors to the Safari Park were able to see Ndlula and Zuli interacting with the herd. Mother and her baby can also be seen on the Safari Park’s elephant cam, which is accessed on its website.

The zoo rescued its four adult African elephants in 2003 from Swaziland, where they had faced being culled. According to zoo officials, a lack of space and long periods of drought had created unsuitable habitat for a large elephant population in the small southern African country.