Former Calgary elephants ‘definitely have their fling back on’ at new U.S. home

The story of two elephants whose love blossomed in Calgary will continue at  their new home in Washington, D.C.

Spike, the bull, and Maharani used to live at the Calgary Zoo. Four years ago, they were separated when the elephant exhibit closed.

“Rani,” as she’s known, moved to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in D.C. with two other female Asian elephants from Alberta.

The Calgary Zoo moved its three Asian elephants — Kamala, Swarna and Maharani — to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in 2013. (Courtesy Calgary Zoo)

Spike was moved to Tampa, Fla. But late last month, he was transferred to the Smithsonian, in hopes of reigniting the spark with his old flame. 

‘Fling back on’

Within days of reuniting, and surprisingly just before Rani started ovulating, Spike approached her, elephant zookeeper Kayleigh Sullivan says.

“They definitely have their fling back on. They are breeding,” she said. “We are very excited and it would be amazing to have a little Rani and Spike running around.”

The gestation period is incredibly long, almost two years, and the elephant hasn’t had much luck in the past. Rani has been pregnant three times. Between 2004 and 2012, two calves died and a third was stillborn. 

The zoo says it will keep the public informed if there is any pregnancy news.

The zoo hopes to breed Spike and Rani to continue the endangered Asian elephant species.

Between 40,000 and 50,000 Asian elephants are alive today, according to the World Wildlife Federation. The conservation organization says the population has declined by at least 50 per cent in three generations due to habitat loss and interaction with humans, such as poaching.

Spike and ‘Rani have started breeding, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo says. (Smithsonian’s National Zoo)

Elephants have been known to remember others they’ve met decades later, and these two remembered each other instantly, their caretaker said.

Spike is 36 years old and Rani is 27.

Rani squeaked and honked when she saw her old friend.

“She just started flapping her ears out of control, which is what we like to call happy flappy ears. Literally looks like she’s about to take off and to fly off,” Sullivan said.

“He didn’t seem as enthusiastic as she was. She was very excited but he was definitely curious.

“He had his trunk up but he’s just such a chill bull that really I don’t think much fazes him because he’s just so laid back.”

The zoo has no plans to move Spike and hopes his presence leads to happy elephants and a few babies.

You can watch the elephants on the Smithsonian’s Elephant Cam.

  • Hear more about the touching reunion of Spike and Rani:
Elephant zookeeper Kayleigh Sullivan tells us what happened when old flames from the Calgary Zoo, Spike and Maharani, were reunited at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington. 6:59

With files from Josie Lukey and the Calgary Eyeopener.



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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.

History

Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
Geography

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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