Meet Mopani, the Omaha zoo’s newest baby elephant

Henry Doorly officials also announced another elephant calf — their fifth — expected in 2024
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium announced the name of their newest elephant Friday -- and said another is on the way.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 10:19 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The elephant born at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium earlier this month has received his name.

Cassie Quimby, Henry Doorly’s senior elephant keeper, announced Friday that the newest elephant arrival has been named Mopani. Born March 2, he is the third African elephant calf birthed at the zoo, joining siblings Eugenia and Sonny, who were both born in January 2022.

Quimby said that naming their calves is extremely important for the zoo and for the elephant community in general.

“Their gestation period is two years. So that’s two years of healthcare of welfare and husbandry to make all this come to fruition. And then for the calf to be born to be able to find out the gender — if it’s a male or female — and then really getting to decide that animal’s name that it will carry for its entire lifetime — for up to 70 to 80 years — it’s a huge deal,” she said.

The zoo sometimes offers donors the opportunity to name the animals, sometimes they have a public contest, and sometimes they allow the keepers of the animals. The third option was used in this case, zoo officials said, with Henry Doorly’s elephant manager narrowing 11 submitted names to four before staff voted to determine the name, which is derived from the native African tree known for its distinctive butterfly-shaped leaves where elephants forage.

Henry Doorly officials also announced Friday that they are expecting their fifth baby elephant in the first part of 2024: Omma, the herd matriarch’s daughter, is pregnant with a calf due to arrive in late February or early March of next year. The zoo’s fourth African elephant calf is due to arrive later this year; Jayei’s pregnancy was announced last July.

Mopani instantly bonded with his mother, Lolly. She had a herd birth, so other elephants were with her when Mopani was born, Quimby said. The public can see him with the rest of the herd, but there are times when mother and baby choose to be off on their own.

“She’s a very attentive first-time mom,” Quimby said, noting that she’s the zoo’s least-dominate elephant, so they’ve been working on easing introductions and allowing for quiet time for mother and baby to continue bonding.

Mopani was 222 pounds about five days after he was born, and recently weighed in about three weeks later at 243 pounds — a bit heavier than his older brother was at his age. His siblings are about a year older than Mopani; sister Eugenia is now around 800 pounds right now, and brother Sonny is just over 900 pounds.

“He’s doing extremely well. He’s growing extremely fast,” Quimby said.

She said that Mopani interacts well with his little brother, Sonny, and loves to play in the water when he has the chance and with the balls and other items staff have available for him to interact with.

“He is a baby, so we’re making sure that he’s interacting with his environment,” Quimby said, noting that elm branches are his favorite toy at the moment.

Henry Doorly zoo officials noted Friday that there has been a baby boom of elephants in captivity. He said there are 165 African elephants in zoos right now. In 2022, five were born — two of them at the Omaha zoo. In 2023, there have been 12 elephant pregnancies announced so far, including Mopani, Jayei’s baby, and the fifth calf Henry Doorly officials announced on Friday.

Our team is LIVE in the Elephant Family Quarters this morning to share some exciting news about our male calf and the herd! Update: Lolly’s calf has been named Mopani by his caretakers. Omma is also expecting a calf of her own February 2024. Pictures coming soon!

Posted by Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium on Friday, March 24, 2023

Correction: The baby elephant’s name was spelled incorrectly in a previous version of this story. 6 News regrets the error.