SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It’s their first birthday, yet the baby elephants at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo are the ones giving Central New York a gift.
In the one year since their birth, Yaad and Tukada have lived remarkably healthy lives. They’re the only known successful birth of twin elephants in the Western Hemisphere, attracting animal experts from around the world and zoo visitors from all over New York State.
Each is now pushing 1000 pounds in weight and has distinct personalities.
“Yaad… he is so stubborn,” said elephant keeper Heather Jennings. “Tukatta is still as laid back as he was on day one.”
As a package, they’re impressing the world.
Zoo Director Ted Fox said, “One of our staff just went to the Elephant Management Association conference in Texas. She did a presentation on the elephants. That community, above all else, were just dumbfounded.”
That same community is acutely aware of the anxieties. The babies are old enough to no longer have antibodies from their mother against the herpes virus that attacks young elephants.
“We know they are going to get exposed to it at some point in time. They just will. The adults carry it. That’s always going to be a concern. We’re working so diligently with universities around the country… to come up with a vaccine, but we know the reality is it’s not here, won’t be for the next year or two,” Fox said.
They can only train to be ready to provide care if one of the elephants shows symptoms.
Another worry is keeping the elephants in Syracuse. The zoo isn’t built for three adult males, and it’s normal for grown elephants to leave their maternal herd.
“We’d really like to do an expansion of some kind. That would give us the opportunity. If not, we want to make sure they stay together,” said Fox.
The zoo would need to raise more than $10 million, which it sounds like they’ll try to do.
“It’s so hard to put into words how much this has meant for us and the community,” said Fox. “Not only our community but the elephant community nationally and internationally. This just doesn’t happen.”