What does an elephant’s dating profile look like?
If the female herd here at the Zoo were to join a dating site in its hunt for a suitable alpha male it might read a little like this: ‘Group of larger ladies looking for a strong male to lead their herd and join them in their new luxury pad. With a swimming pool and a three-acre garden there is plenty of room for the pitter-patter of not so tiny feet!’
While this seems like a quirky little Valentine’s Day story, the process to find the elephants a suitable male is actually very much underway.
The procedure, however, is a little more complicated than a photo-shopped selfie and a mutual love of long walks on the beach!
The Asian elephants here at the Zoo are part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), which is aimed at conserving healthy populations while safeguarding the genetic health of the animals.
An EEP is the most intensive type of population management for a species kept in zoos. A coordinator, who has specialist interest and knowledge of the Asian elephants, is currently working with the Species Committee and our team at Blackpool Zoo to identify the perfect partner.
As well as assessing the detailed genetic information on all the animals concerned we also need to take into account lots of other factors.
Just like any other animal, each elephant has their own personality and everyone needs to get on to create a harmonious breeding family. So the temperament of the new male will be taken into consideration.
In addition, his size and age will be considered, as well as if he has already bred successfully.
Another aspect of the process is the elephant’s adaptability to work with the husbandry teams at the zoo and how well he will settle into a new routine.
Once our team of dedicated experts have identified and agreed upon a suitable match the long and complicated procedure of his transfer will begin.
Discussions and meetings have been taking place over the course of the last year and a final decision will hopefully be made soon.
This means that Blackpool Zoo is hoping to welcome its first male Asian elephant before the end of 2019.
Darren Webster, Zoo Director, explains: “We were absolutely delighted to welcome the four new girls from Twycross Zoo last year and Minbu, Tara, Noorjahan and Esha are settling in well to life here at Blackpool.
“Obviously, one of the main questions we are asked is when are they going to be joined by a male, and it isn’t an easy question to answer.
“Every single aspect of Project Elephant has been meticulously planned to provide the perfect home for a breeding herd and we need to get it right first time when it comes to introducing a new male.
“With so many factors to consider it takes a dedicated team of experts working together to make an informed decision and we have already spent a considerable amount of time researching and discussing who might be joining our girls.
“We are immensely proud of what we have already achieved with Project Elephant and as soon as we have confirmation and an arrival date for our new male we will be sharing it with everyone.”