African Elephant Sundzu Makes New Home at San Diego Zoo
Adolescent elephant Tsandizkle, known fondly as Sundzu, has left Reid Park Zoo and now resides at the San Diego Zoo Elephant Odyssey habitat.
“Sundzu is at the age where young male elephants move out of their family groups, independent from their mom, and seek opportunities to find new herds of their own. We have watched him gradually move away from his mom and become more independent,” said Dr. Sue Tygielski, Director of Zoological Operations at Reid Park Zoo.
Over the last several months Sundzu spent lots of time playfully wrestling with his father Mabu and his aunt Lungile. The play was becoming more rough, as is typical of a male of Sundzu’s age. This behavior indicates Sundzu is ready to move on to a bachelor herd to continue to wrestle with bulls his own size.
“Sundzu first came to Reid Park Zoo as a 1-year-old calf, and has grown up into a very playful adolescent elephant. We will miss him here at Reid Park Zoo, but are excited to see him grow up and have this opportunity to thrive as part of a new herd,” said Nancy Kluge, President & CEO of Reid Park Zoological Society.
Sundzu and Inhlonipho, a 9-year-old adolescent elephant known as Nipho, will be introduced to one another at San Diego Zoo; it is expected that they will begin to form a bachelor group, as they would likely do in their native habitat.
Following long-term studies of elephant herds, accredited zoos have begun creating herds of elephants in human care that mimic the primary social groupings of matriarchal and bachelor groups in the wild. Male herds have a fluid social structure in which they alternate between living alone, being with bull groups of mixed composition, and being with female groups.
Caring for elephants in a manner allowing them to maintain natural social systems is imperative for their ongoing health and wellbeing, and important for Zoos to continue to prioritize and support.