Max the Elephant has first birthday

The Prague Zoo will celebrate the event on Saturday

The little baby elephant Maximillian will celebrate his first birthday Saturday, April 8, starting at 11 am. He is the first elephant conceived and born at Prague Zoo, and his actually date of birth is April 5, 2016, but Saturday is more suited to a celebration. His mother, Janita, came from Sri Lanka in 2012. His father is Mekong went to a zoo in the Netherlands in December 2014. Elephants have a gestation time of up to 22 months. Janita is estimated to have been pregnant for 639 days.

Maximillian is not the first elephant born in the zoo, but the first conceived and born there. The first elephant born at Prague Zoo in its 85-year history was the female elephant Sita in February 2013. Her mother, Donna, came to Prague in 2012 from Rotterdam already pregnant. Sita and Donna both now live at the Osnabruck Zoo in Germany.

The Prague Zoo's Elephant Valley is the largest such compound in the Czech Republic and currently has seven elephants. It opened in 2013. The oldest elephant is the female Galub, who has been at the zoo since 1966. Other members are the male Ankhor, the females Janita, Shanti and Tamara, and babies Maximilian and Rudolf. The latter was born in October to Tamara and Ankhor.

Elephants have a long history at Prague Zoo, dating back to 1933, when the elephant named Baby arrived. He was followed in 1951 and 1952 by the females Jumba and Duňa and in 1953 by Petr I. The first elephant compound at Prague Zoo was on the site of the current lemur exhibit. The next opened in 1973 in the area of today’s Bororo Reservation. Both of them were in the flood zone. The 2002 floods demonstrated the need to build a new elephant compound that would not be threatened by possible flooding. The new complex cost Kč 500 million.

Female elephants can breed about once every four years. Some 10 elephants are born in Europe every year, and European zoos have around 300 Asian elephants. About 40,000 live in the wild and they are considered endangered.

Prague Zoo has been rated as the fourth-best zoo in world by users of the website TripAdvisor. It had a record number of visitors in 2016, topping 1.4 million. The two baby elephants have been a big draw. Other births included an aardvark, giraffe, a viper, a rare giant rat and a rare African openbill. The zoo saw a total of 1,191 juveniles in 223 species. The zoo also has been drawing crowds to see rare lions that it acquired at the end of 2015.

Prague Zoo opened in 1931. It 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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