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October 18, 2012

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Elephant calves reach new home

TWO elephant calves from Myanmar arrived in their new home at Shanghai Wildlife Park yesterday in the Pudong New Area.

It was the first time the park has imported elephants. Its four home-grown elephants are getting old.

The park will send four sea lions to Myanmar in exchange for the elephants.

The two Asiatic elephants - a seven-year-old male and an eight-year-old female - were fed bananas, grass, apples and sugarcane and they appeared in good spirits after traveling more than 3,000 kilometers by land to their new home.

Each calf is nearly 2 meters tall and weighs more than 1 ton.

"Their first mission is to learn to understand Chinese instructions and make friends with their Chinese keepers," said Fei Zhenxuan, the park's deputy general manager.

The two elephants appeared to be curious about their new home and played in the water upon arrival at the park.

They left Yangon Zoo on October 13 after a farewell ceremony hosted by Myanmar agricultural authorities.

The journey was smooth even though an earthquake hit an area of Yunnan Province only hours after they passed through the region.

Along the way, the elephants and their keepers stopped at various zoos and wildlife parks in China. When they left Kunming, Yunnan Wildlife Park gave the elephants 20 watermelons and lots of bananas as "snacks" for the trip.

Xu Jianzhong, an animal expert who helped transport the animals from Myanmar, said he saw many mice scurrying around while they had stopped for a rest in Lufeng County in Yunnan on Sunday. A 4.4-magnitude earthquake hit the county three hours after they left.

"We didn't feel anything, but guessed there might be a quake when we saw the mice," Xu said.

The park is now seeking Chinese names for the two elephants, who will remain in quarantine for one month. They are expected to reproduce in a few years.

Asiatic elephants are the largest land animals in Asia and can be found in the wild in Yunnan and other Asian countries. It is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's endangered species list.


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