There are many reasons to brag about Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium — our Desert Dome, the huge indoor rainforest, ever-growing exhibits. And there’s the impressive elephant herd, which seems to be ever-growing lately, as well. In 2023, the zoo is going to welcome its fourth baby elephant calf in two years. Let’s take a look at this majestic herd and fun facts about each elephant.
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UPDATE: This post has been updated in March 2023 with some baby news! Lolly had a male calf on March 2. The Elephant Family Quarters are temporarily closed to the public to allow for mom and baby to bond.
Who’s who in the Omaha elephant herd
The elephants at Omaha’s zoo are all African Savanna Elephants, an endangered species. The zoo provided me with a pretty handy elephant guide. See if you can identify each elephant on your next visit:
- Jayei: Largest female of the herd and the matriarch of the herd. She comes from Swaziland and arrived in Omaha in 2016. She’s estimated to be between 25 and 30 years old, and weighs about 7,620 pounds. She has a deep sway to her back. She’s pregnant and is expected to give birth to her second calf in the late summer of 2023. Her daughter is Omma, and you may hear rumblings between the two of them as a means of communicating. She demonstrates her dominance through her looks and movements. Jayei means “a woman strong like an elephant.”
- Omma: She has the smallest ears of the herd, and you’ll notice her left tusk in only a couple inches long but it’s the one she favors using. She may be easy to spot since she is often near her mom, Jayei. She can often be seen playing with Lolly. Omma is 11 years old and weighs 5,310 pounds. Omma means “the eyes of heaven.”
- Kiki: She has very large ears, and is the second largest female in the herd, weighing in at about 6,270 pounds. Her tusks are pretty equal in length, mostly straight and point downward. Kiki is between 16 to 18 years old, and is the mother of Eugenia, the first calf born at the zoo. Kiki means “favorite child.” Kiki is a curious elephant and is often exploring with her trunk, and she like to go in the mud wallow. Kiki also came from Swaziland in 2016.
- Claire: Her right tusk grows straight down and appears to be longer than the left tusk (which has a traditional tusk curvature). She’s between ages 13 and 14 and currently weights 5,040 pounds. She’s the mother of Sonny.
- Lolly: Her unique trait are her long eyelashes, and she’s pregnant with her first calf (expected to be born in late February). Lolly is about 11 years old and currently weighs 4,920 pounds.
- Callee: Callee, a bull elephant (male), is the largest elephant in the herd. He weighs about 9,950 pounds, is 22 years old, and his face has an hour-glass shape to it. He was born at the Birmingham Zoo, and arrived in Omaha in 2019.
- Eugenia: She’s the smaller of the two 1-year-old calves and is often spotted with her mom, Kiki, or playing with Sonny. Her nickname is “Nia.” Her first weight was 181 pounds, and she is currently 719 pounds at just over a year old. Her birthday is January 7. Her dad is Callee.
- Sonny: He’s the larger of the two 1-year-old calves, and is often spotted with his mom, Claire. HIs first favorite food was sucking on orange slices, but now he likes apples. His birthday is January 30. He dad is also Callee.
Eugenia, Sonny and two babies on the way
We’re incredibly lucky to already have two calves at the zoo, as it’s a rare chance to watch them grow up, learn herd norms, and play together. Eugenia and Sonny were born in 2022, and celebrated their first birthdays in January 2023.
BABY UPDATE: Two more calves are expected in 2023. The first of the two — Lolly’s calf — was born on March 2, 2023. The male elephant calf and mom are doing well, according to the zoo. The Elephant Family Quarters are temporarily closed to the public to allow for mom and son to bond. I’ll update this post when they have reopened.
Jayei is expected to birth her calf in late summer or early fall.
But while we wait for the babies to arrive, there are already two little ones to watch grow up:
- Eugenia is the eldest of the babies, born Jan. 7, 2022. She’s smaller than Sonny, which is typical for female elephants. Her favorite fruit is bananas. Her keeper calls her “a little spitfire.”
- Sonny was born a few weeks after Euginie, on Jan. 30, 2022. He seems to be the goofball of the group, and very much loves to play. His favorite fruit is apples.
Keepers are hoping that the two new additions will also be one boy and one girl so the calves will have someone to play with. I’m told males play differently than females (ain’t that the truth across all species?).
Where are the elephants at Omaha’s zoo
Most of the herd arrived in Omaha in 2016 (the bull arrived in 2019), and started growing with the births of two calves in 2022. Two more are expected in 2023.
Look for the elephants in the southeastern corner of the zoo, and are a highlight of the zoo’s African Grasslands exhibit. In the winter, the elephants typically inside the elephant barn, or the Elephant Family Quarters. This indoor space is the larger elephant herd space in North America.
NOTE: As of March 2, the Elephant Family Quarters are temporarily closed since the birth of the third calf, allowing for mom Lolly to bond with the baby. I’ll update this post when it has reopened.
In the summer, they are more likely outdoors.
My favorite place to watch the elephants is at the Tusker Grill, a restaurant within the African Grasslands exhibit with an outdoor seating overlooking the elephant’s enclosure. The foods good, and you can’t beat the view if the elephants are nearby.
You’ll get a lot closer to the elephants when they’re indoors, but it does have a particularly strong smell in there.
Best time to see the Omaha zoo elephants
You can visit the elephants any season in Omaha, since there are indoor facilities as well as outdoors. Personally, I love going to the zoo in the winter because it is way less crowded. There’s no maneuvering to get a spot with a good view of the elephants in that limited space indoors.
However, there’s a good reason the zoo is super busy in the summer: There are a lot of animal enrichments and encounters to watch, including one with elephants usually. Animal enrichments are short opportunities to watch the keepers work with an animal and learn about them in the process. In the past, the elephant enrichment program was viewable from Memorial Day through Labor Day.