Hellabrunn’s female elephants first to explore new bull yard

Gajendra, the elephant bull, is set to return to Hellabrunn Zoo at the end of November. But before he arrives, his female companions Steffi, Panang, Mangala and Temi have been given the opportunity to check out the new bull yard on the north side of the Elephant House.

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn/Robert Auer

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn/Robert Auer

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn/Robert Auer

Reopened just three weeks ago, the new Elephant House is dedicated to providing a home solely for Asian elephants. The exclusive use for this pachyderm species applies not only to the building, but also the surrounding outdoor yards. This includes the outdoor yards for female elephants as well as the newly designed, large outdoor enclosure for bulls on the north side. The bull yard, which features its own plunge pool and a separate entrance to the Elephant House, was not accessible to the elephants during the years in which the renovation work was undertaken. The four female elephants currently residing at the zoo have therefore been given an opportunity to check out the bull yard before Gajendra, the male elephant, returns to Hellabrunn after a six-year absence.

"This area is quite new to our elephants - after all, they have never been here before. It was therefore all the more interesting to see how the elephants would explore this part of the enclosure. In addition, we were able to test whether the new yard is actually suitable for Gajendra. At just under five tonnes, he is significantly heavier and stronger than our female elephants,” says zoo director Rasem Baban. “And through this we have discovered that the bamboo plants along the visitor path are not able to withstand the long, strong trunks of the animals - who tend to pull them out very quickly and eat them."

While Steffi, Panang, Mangala and Temi are in Munich exploring their new home, preparations are underway in Hamburg for the return of Gajendra. "We are delighted to be able to welcome our bull back to Hellabrunn at the end of the month and are all very excited to see how he will like the new Elephant House with its beautiful bull yard," adds Baban.

Due to the renovation work on the Elephant House, Gajendra was transferred from Munich to Leipzig Zoo in January 2011 as the temporary accommodation available for elephants at Hellabrunn was only suitable for female elephants. In 2013, Gajendra was subsequently moved from Leipzig to Hagenbeck Zoo in Hamburg, where he has fathered three young calves, including Anjuli and Kanja.

Now that the Elephant House has reopened, there is nothing to stand in the way of Hellabrunn expanding its elephant herd. "Elephants have an extremely good memory. Therefore, we are assuming that Gajendra will soon become accustomed to his new "old" home and will be happy to be back with his herd," says curator Beatrix Köhler.

The current residents of the Elephant House at Hellabrunn Zoo are:

Born 1966 in India
At Hellabrunn since: 1968
The head of the elephant herd can be easily recognised by her long, slender, trunk. The trunk is partly lame. Despite the lameness, Steffi enjoys a normal life.

Born 13.2.1989 in Zürich Zoo
At Hellabrunn Zoo since: 1995
Panang is a rather small, feisty female elephant. Her distinguishing features are her flapping ears and the smooth skin of her trunk.

Born 1993 in India
At Hellabrunn Zoo since: December 1994
Mangala, the second youngest female elephant at Hellabrunn, is very caring. Her favourite toy is a truck tyre.

Born 2.11.2001 in Tierpark Berlin
At Hellabrunn Zoo since: 2006
The name Temi means "daughter" in Burmese. The youngest female elephant at Hellabrunn is very self-confident.