It's a moment everyone has been waiting for, and finally happened this month.
It was a bright, sunny morning. Both the Kopi and Working yards at Elephant Encounter were open and full of food (a helpful distraction for a first interaction) when the doors were opened and Dari, Christie and Zuri all ran outside to be together for the first time.
The big step was something for which Hogle Zoo had been planning from the time of Zuri's birth.
The first hurdle for Utah's favorite baby elephant was size. Her animal care team put a lot of weight on, well, Zuri's weight. A healthy size and weight would mean Zuri could fend for herself should the resident matriarch, Dari, decide to try any roughhousing.
Once the tyke was the right size, the elephant keepers wanted to give Zuri a protected environment in which to interact with Dari. This involved introducing the two with protective barriers between them. It gave them a chance to interact with sight, sound and smell before moving on to the moment of touch. And, to everyone's delight, the interaction went well.
Next up was time for interaction between Christie and Dari. You might be wondering, if they spent time together before Zuri's birth, why would they need to be reintroduced. Well, it's similar to when two humans haven't seen each other for a year. There's an initial phase of readjustment. But, of course, the ladies did just fine and paved the way for the moment everyone was waiting for.
The trio made their way out into the yard on the morning of their first time together, and it couldn't have gone any better. Zuri spent time following Dari around, playing with her mom Christie, and eating all the food she could get her trunk around.
The three have continued to spend time together as a herd and Dari has resumed her matriarch role with Zuri now looking to her, as well as to her mom, for direction. And, if you were to ask one of the keepers at Elephant Encounter, they'd tell you that now Zuri spends a lot of time with Dari, and the two seem to truly enjoy each other's company.
With this big step accomplished, Zuri now has other achievements to reach in her future. Namely, pool play. Zuri has spent time with Christie in the pool yard, and has even dipped her toes into the shallow end pf the pool, with the water dropped to a baby elephant appropriate level. The hope is that soon, Zuri will venture all the way into the water and be able to enjoy a cool spot in the warm summer months.
And as for the three of them, chances are you'll be seeing them playing together more and more as summer stretches on at Hogle Zoo.