A 332-pound baby can be a lot of work.
But after months of “baby-proofing,” baby Ajabu and his mom Mlilo have made their public debut together Wednesday at the Dallas Zoo.
Weather permitting, the pair will now make regular appearances outdoors after spending months bonding. The zoo’s team had to “baby-proof” several areas to make room for Ajabu including two barns, two behind-the-scenes yards and a lower part of the “Giants of the Savanna” habitat.
Born in May at 175 pounds and 3 feet tall, the little one has now grown to 332 pounds and almost 4 feet tall.
He’s still working on eating solid foods such as hay but loves to roll his favorite ball around and experiment with his trunk.
As he grows, he’ll be given access to other parts of the exhibit and will eventually join the herd.
“Inevitably, animals use spaces a little bit differently than we might guess, so they’ll always surprise us by finding something or moving something we didn’t think they were going to get into,” Harrison Edell, the zoo’s senior director of living collections, told The Dallas Morning News. “But we try our best to think a step or two — or eight — ahead of them.”
Ajabu’s mom Mlilo was one of 17 elephants flown in March to Alliance Airport in North Fort Worth from Swaziland. Five of the elephants were placed at the Dallas Zoo. The others were sent to zoos in Kansas and Nebraska.
“It’s an incredible feeling to see how involved the public has been in Ajabu’s five months of life without meeting him until today,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and CEO on the zoo’s website. “Ajabu is a remarkable ambassador for his declining species, and now he’s able to connect our community even more to the importance of protecting African elephants.”
The mother and baby can be viewed at the Giants of the Savanna habitat, which opened in May 2010 and was named a top 10 zoo exhibit by USA Today in 2015.