April 28, 2023

Denver Zoo Welcomes New Asian Elephant to the Herd

Nine-Year-Old Duncan Joins the Zoo’s Five Other Male Elephants in Toyota Elephant Passage at the Recommendation of the Asian Elephant Special Survival Plan


Our Asian elephant bachelor herd just grew about 7,700 lbs. larger with the addition of Duncan, a nine-year-old Asian elephant, who arrived this week from Houston Zoo. Born on Feb. 7, 2014 to parents Shanti and Thai, Duncan loves cantaloupe and alfalfa hay, and enjoys swimming—especially in the rain—according to his former keepers in Houston. The Zoo’s team of elephant care experts report that Duncan is already settling in as he joins 53-year-old Groucho, 19-year-old Bodhi, 15-year-old Billy, 14-year-old Chuck and 13-year-old Jake, and will be part of its ongoing efforts to help save and protect the endangered species.  

Duncan’s move to Denver Zoo comes at the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP) and supports the natural history of this species thanks to the Zoo’s facilities and expertise that provides a comfortable home for male elephants to thrive. 

Due to the matriarchal social system of elephants, young males leave their maternal herds when they begin maturing, typically between the ages of eight to 11. They then can live in loose bachelor groups that include an older bull who serves as a mentor and teacher to the younger males.  

Additionally, male elephants spend time away from the bachelor group during musth, an annual hormonal cycle marked by high levels of testosterone and increased aggression. This social dynamic can sometimes be challenging to manage, which is why Toyota Elephant Passage was specifically designed to support the needs of male elephants in human care. Denver Zoo was the first AZA-accredited institution to house and socialize multiple Asian bull elephants, and its elephant care team studies the intricate social dynamics of bulls every day to help inform conservation of the species in its native ranges.  

The Zoo’s elephant keepers have already introduced Duncan to the herd’s leader, Groucho, and will continue to introduce him to other members of the group as he settles in. Guests and members may be able to see Duncan in the area of Toyota Elephant Passage directly east of the Clayton F. Freiheit Elephant House. Plan your visit today!


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