Blackpool Zoo

Blackpool’s Biggest Bubble

Posted: 12th October, 2020

Blackpool Zoo continues to celebrate its bubbles this week, almost a year to the day since it welcomed the final member of one of its most significant families.

Its herd of six Asian elephants was completed with bull elephant, Emmet, who made the 200-mile journey from ZSL Whipsnade Zoo on October 25th 2019. 

His arrival heralded a new and exciting chapter for Blackpool Zoo as he is the first male elephant to live there in the zoo’s 48-year history. 

The momentous occasion came after more than five years of incredible work from the management and zoo keeping teams at the zoo to build a world class, multimillion-pound Project Elephant Base Camp facility that is centred entirely round the complex needs of this magnificent species.

Five female elephants were already living in Base Camp when Emmett moved in. They were Kate, who was one of the first animals to arrive at the zoo in 1972 as well as Minbu, Noorjahan, Tara and Esha, who packed their trucks and travelled from Twycross Zoo in 2018. 

Emmett is 29 years old and has already sired over 15 young, so his experience as part of similar groups means he was perfectly placed to teach the next generation at Blackpool.

Kate, who is 51, lived happily with her previous female herd members in Blackpool Zoo before they passed away in recent years. She was the first to make the move to the amazing new facility at the end of 2017. 

In early 2018 Minbu, who is 35 years old and Tara who is 22, arrived and were followed by mother and daughter 25-year old Noorjahan, and Esha, who is just six, in October. 

Since then it has been an intensive process of introductions as everyone was separately introduced to each other and became accustomed to their new surroundings. 

In June this year, when the zoo was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all six were fully integrated, boosting hopes for the pitter patter of not very tiny feet in the next few years.

Andrew Durham, Head of Elephants at Blackpool Zoo, said: “Base Camp is a truly outstanding facility and is a world class home for our elephant bubble.

“Now, six years after we broke ground at the site, we have a settled, multi-generation herd that will hopefully breed in the near future.

“Of course, with the longest gestation of any mammal, we will have to wait at least two years before any of the girls give birth, but it will be worth it when we do finally announce the first baby elephant in the zoo’s history.”

Blackpool Zoo’s herd of elephants was brought together following extensive talks with experts from the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) and specialist keepers from across the UK.

Project Elephant underpins Blackpool Zoo’s ongoing commitment to the endangered Asian elephant. It is a long-term supporter of the Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust (BECT) in Sri Lanka. 

Formed in 1998, the non-profit organisation identifies and addresses the social issues of human and elephant conflict in order to facilitate the conservation of the species.

The Asian elephant has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1986.  The population has declined by at least 50 percent over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years, with threats including loss of habitat, habitat degradation, fragmentation and poaching.

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