Prague Zoo gets new “German-speaking” Indian elephant

Elephant Ankhor, photo: ČTK

As of Wednesday morning, the elephant pavilion at Prague Zoo has a new addition. The 31-year old Indian elephant male, named Ankhor, was transported to the capital from Berlin during the night. Prague Zoo has acquired the bull with a view to increasing its elephant breeding. I spoke to the zoo's mammal curator Pavel Brandl and started by asking what measures were used for transporting the four-tonne mammal:

Transport of the elephant,  photo: ČTK
“There are several companies in Europe that specialize in elephant transfers. So we used on of those companies. There is a specially constructed crate for an elephant bull which weighs about five and a half tonnes. So together with the elephant it was nine and a half. We had to use a big crane to move the crate and a special heavy truck.”

Why did you acquire the elephant in the first place? Are there no other male elephants in Prague?

“Prague Zoo has an elephant bull called Mekong but he is not very keen on reproducing. On the other hand we have three females who are reproductively active so we discussed the possibility to acquire another bull with the European breeding programme for elephants managed by the European Association of Zoos. Ankhor is a very good bull. He is one of a few bulls who have sired more than ten offspring during his lifetime. So we are happy to have him in Prague and we hope he will continue in his reproduction the same way he did in Berlin.”

Elephant Ankhor,  photo: ČTK
Ankhor arrived on Wednesday morning. How did he react to the new surroundings? And how long will take him to get used to his new home?

“He was very calm. He immediately started eating and defecating in a normal way, which is always a good sign after transport. At the moment he looks just like he did in Berlin. It’s interesting that elephant bulls usually take transfers very well. Maybe it has to do with their natural behaviour in the wild where they are migrating long distances from one female group to another. So they are probably used to a long migration.”

I heard that the zookeepers have to speak to the elephant in German because he only follows German instructions. Is that right?

The elephant pavilion at Prague Zoo,  photo: Martina Schneibergová
“It’s definitely true. The elephants are coming with commands in their language so for example now in Prague we are using commands in Czech English, German and Sinhalese for different elephants. ”

And finally, when do you expect to present the elephant to the public?

“At the moment we have to start step by step to teach him the daily routine and to show him all the rooms. Then we will start to take him to the small outside paddocks and after that the enclosure for the visitors. So I will be happy to see Ankhor in the public area by the end of August. ”