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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sawasdee Luk Chai - the new thai elephant to Sydney

More than 30,000 entries were received for the zoo's naming competition, with 10 suggesting the name finally

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 6: A two-day-old baby...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

picked by Luk Chai's keepers. Chai can also mean triumph, which officials at Sydney's Taronga Zoo say is apt due to his historic birth.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 6: A two-day-old baby...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Having waited 22 months for his birth, it seems a trifle it took three weeks to find a name for the first elephant calf born in Australia.

The male Asian elephant calf has become a big hit since his birth on July 4, with daily visitor numbers at the zoo more than doubling from 4500 to about 12,000.

Since an unsteady first public appearance just two days after his birth, Luk Chai now has the run of the popular elephant enclosure.

Taronga ZooImage by yewenyi via Flickr

He was again shepherded around his new home by his mum Thong Dee and the other elephants today, to the delight of students attending the naming ceremony.

NSW Premier Nathan Rees hailed Luk Chai's birth a ‘‘landmark for zoology in Australia’’ when announcing the small pachyderm's name.

‘‘The only thing that has been lacking to make this picture complete is a name. For three weeks this baby elephant has been nameless as we awaited suggestions," he said.

‘‘Communities across NSW have embraced this competition and I would like to thank everyone who participated.

‘‘The name recognised the young elephant's Thai heritage, as well as his boisterous, inquisitive nature."

Keepers chose the name Luk Chai because they thought it would also be easy for the young elephant to recognise, Mr Rees said.

The birth of Luk Chai, to former Bangkok street elephant Thong Dee, is a major coup for the zoo.

Thong Dee and Luk Chai's auntie Tang Mo are two of five elephants brought to Taronga from Thailand in 2006 as part of an elephant breeding program.

Though Thong Dee is the first elephant to give birth in Australia, the pitter patter of big feet is soon to become a regular sound is Australia's leading zoos.

Two cows at Taronga and two at Melbourne Zoo are due to give birth in the next few years.

Elephants have the longest gestation period of any land mammal - 22 months - and as few as 34,000 Asian elephants are thought to remain in Asia.

Thailand's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti, in Sydney for the naming ceremony, said he was happy Luk Chai had been so warmly welcomed.

Taronga Zoo ferry wharf, SydneyImage via Wikipedia

‘‘I'm very pleased to see that our newborn baby elephant has received such a heartwarming welcome, and has brought excitement to Australians and animal lovers all over the country," he said.

Mr Rees said the fuss over Luk Chai would continue for some time, with Asian elephants having a life expectancy of 60 years.

‘‘Welcome to the world, Luk Chai," Mr Rees said.

‘‘I hope you give many decades of happiness."

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