The Latest on Reid Park Zoo’s African Elephant Herd

Reid Park Zoo’s African elephant herd is always dynamic, and relationships within the herd change over time.

As elephants grow up they play different roles in the herd — and day to day the dynamics can be different even, just like in our own families!

Mabu, the largest bull elephant, and father to the youngsters is still playful. He interacts and trunk wrestles with all members of the herd. However with the littlest ones, like Penzi, he is a gentle dad.  

Sundzu, the 10 year old male elephant, really enjoys wrestling roughly with his dad, Mabu and aunt, Lungile. Sundzu is an adolescent elephant who is approaching maturity. At this age, young bulls break away from their mothers, and branch off into herds of their own. Sundzu will leave Reid Park Zoo and branch off into a herd of his own sometime soon.

Semba, the large mother elephant, is the matriarch and focuses her time in leading the herd. She is always interested in food and guides the herd around the habitat — it might look as though she does not watch her youngsters, but Penzi is very good at following her!

Lungile, the auntie elephant, really enjoys playing with the young girls, Nandi and Penzi.  However as Nandi is getting older, Lungile is starting to teach her manners like not taking food from big elephants. Nandi used to be able to walk up and take food from Lungile, like Penzi can do, but Nandi is a little too old to do that!

Nandi puts most of her time and energy into playing, following and guiding little sister Penzi.  She is at the stage where Penzi is big enough to play and run with, but small enough to still need a teacher.

Penzi, at age one, can play with all the elephants and also take food from any of them.  It is the privilege of the young, that they can play and do whatever they want at this stage all in attempts to learn about the world.

On your next visit to Reid Park Zoo, take some time and watch the dynamics of the herd.  Who is hanging out with each other?  What behaviors do you see that might show the various roles of each member of the herd?  Enjoy learning more about these beautiful, intelligent, social animals.