The Sedgwick County Zoo’s elephant herd is about to grow — and its new member might lead to baby elephants in the future.
Ajani, a bull elephant from the Birmingham Zoo in Alabama, will join the seven elephants currently at the zoo this spring. The zoo's current elephant herd includes six females and one juvenile male, meaning Ajani will be the first adult male in the herd.
“The Sedgwick County Zoo is excited for the opportunity to introduce an adult male to the rest of the herd,” said Lauren Ripple, elephant manager, in a news release. “It is our hope that Ajani will be able to breed with some of the females already in our care.”
Ajani’s move is a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Elephant Species Survival Plan, a program in which several zoos work together to protect and grow the African elephant herd in North America. Currently, African elephants are threatened because of poaching and trafficking for the illegal ivory trade.
Ryan Gulker, deputy director and chief operating officer at the zoo, said he hopes to see a baby elephant within the next three to four years.
Ajani is 17 years old, weighs 9,500 pounds, and measures 9 feet, 6 inches at the shoulder. In comparison, Stephanie — the largest elephant currently at the zoo — is 7,350 pounds and 8 feet at the shoulder. Male African elephants generally live to be about 40 to 50 years old, Gulker said.
A goal of the zoo is to create a multi-generational, multi-sex herd.
“That’s the way they live in the wild. They live with older animals, younger animals, babies,” Gulker said. “ Adult bull elephants are an important part of the welfare of an elephant herd. … We’re trying to build a herd that can behave as nature intended and live as nature intended in their new home.”
About two years ago, six of the zoo’s seven elephants arrived in Wichita from Swaziland as part of the collaborative effort with other zoos.