Baby elephant named for emperor

The winning name for the second baby born this year was announced

The younger of the baby elephants at Prague Zoo finally has a name, and it is Rudolf, or Rudi for short. The name was one of three choices in a public vote. The other options were Nandimithra and Hanno, and people had the opportunity to vote from November to noon Dec. 27. The name Rudolf refers to Emperor Rudolf II, who kept exotic animals including a lion at Prague Castle at the end of the 16th and start of the 17th century.

Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová and Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek were among those attending the naming ceremony. Rudolf was born Oct. 7 to the female Indian elephant Tamara. The father is Ankhor, the only adult male elephant at the zoo.

Rudolf is just the second elephant conceived and born at Prague Zoo. The other was also born this year. Max arrived April 5, 2016, and is also named for an emperor, Maximilian II. The elephant's mother was Janita, and his father was Mekong, who has been moved to the zoo in Emmen in Holland.

“Today in Prague we have two emperors,” Prague Zoo director Miroslav Bobek said in a press release. “Along with Rudolf, who was baptized today, Max lives in the Valley of Elephants; he was named in honor of Emperor Maximilian II who brought an Indian elephant to our city already in 1570.”

A third elephant was born in the Prague Zoo, but not conceived there. Sita was born in February 2013, but was conceived when her mother, Donna, was in the zoo in Rotterdam.

Rudolf weighs about 150 kilograms and still sticks very close to his mother, which is normal. They go out to the enclosure for about an hour and a half a day. He has a small hernia, but it is not yet possible to operate on it. The hernia is being treated with medical massages for the time being and the situation will be re-examined in about half a year. Rudolf seems unaware of any problem and his condition is stable.

The two baby male elephants have become friends and play together. Eventually when they become adults they will likely be transferred to other European zoos. The Prague Zoo has had elephants since 1933. Currently it has nine, counting the two babies.

The zoo opened Sept. 28, 1931, with a she-wolf named Lotta as the first resident. Przewalski's horses were also among the first ocupants. Tigers came in 1932, followed by a baby elephant, a hippopotamus and a rhinoceros in 1933. The lion Šárka and her mate Ctirad took residence in 1934.

The 1950s saw an era of expansion and the zoo had another era of expansion after the Velvet Revolution. Flooding in 2002 affected about half of the zoo, however, and led to several animal deaths although most animals were evacuated. The lower part of the zoo has been rebuilt since then with new pavilions and exhibits.

The zoo was ranked the fourth-best in the world by users of the travel site TripAdvisor in July 2015, beaten only by zoos in San Diego, California; Puerto de la Cruz, Spain; and Singapore.

The Prague Zoo currently covers 58 hectares with 50 hectares used for exhibits. It has over 4,700 animals from 681 species, including 144 species listed as threatened. The zoo has 12 pavilions and over 150 exhibits. It has been particularly active in the preservation of the Przewalski's horses, which are slowly being returned to the wild.

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