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Baby elephant Corra makes Animal Kingdom debut at Disney

By Dewayne Bevil, Orlando Sentinel
Published: February 15, 2024, 6:20pm

Corra, a 2-month-old African elephant, skipped onto the savanna for the first time at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park on Thursday morning.

Within that first hour, she scampered alongside mom Nadirah, explored a log and interacted with her aunts and grandmother. She played with her food, a stack of hay, freshly fluffed by Walt Disney World cast members.

And she mostly ignored the tourists rolling by as part of the park’s Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction, even after one cried out “It’s a baby!”

Corra is a big baby, weighing in at 312 pounds, an increase from her 200 pounds when she was born at Animal Kingdom in December.

“She is very much a little kid,” said Dr. Scott Terrell, director of animal and science operations.

“They’re always a little clumsy with their trunk, and she tripped over her trunk and she stumbled in,” he said. “She loves to climb on things. … She loves to play with bubbles. The team will give her a bubble bath, and she loves to blow bubbles. She loves to play in the water. She loves to annoy her big sister Stella.

“So her personality is absolutely incredible. And I think she knows she’s the center of attention,” Terrell said.

Early Thursday, Corra was surrounded by family, including her aunts, her grandmother and her mom, who was born at Animal Kingdom in 2005. The park has three generations of African elephants living there.

And Corra could be the beginning of a baby elephant boomlet: Disney officials are expecting two more births in 2025.

“Elephants in the wild are a matriarchal society. Multigenerations of elephants live together in the wild, and we’re trying to re-create that wild environment, that natural environment, and with Corra’s birth we have now created this multigenerational herd of elephants that very much mimics that wild ability for the animals to thrive,” Terrell said.

After several minutes adjusting to her new environment, grandmother Donna rushed onto the scene.

“Just like any of our grandmothers would want to be part of this first day of kindergarten,” Terrell said. “I think that’s what we saw … that family of grandmother, mother, baby, aunts, sisters, all react to a really momentous day for one of their family members.”

The addition of Corra has enhanced the family life of the herd, Elizabeth Warncke, animal care manager, said.

“It’s definitely brought them closer together. You can see that the younger ones are a little bit more mature when they’re around Corra,” she said. “They understand that, you know, this is a calf. We have to protect her. So it’s been very interesting to watch.”

Mac, Corra’s father, also lives at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but he was absent from the family setting Thursday. That’s like it would be in the wild, officials said.

“The bulls don’t really have a whole lot of interest in calves. They like the older girls,” Warncke said. “A calf might as well just be invisible to him. He doesn’t have any interest.”

Corra was years in the making, even before Nadirah’s 22-month pregnancy, which spanned two Florida summers. After determining that she was physically mature enough to be a mom, Disney took baby steps when introducing her to Mac. And the process was done in conjunction with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and scientific data.

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“We were looking at her reproductive hormone levels from the day that she conceived all the way to the day that she gave birth after a 639-day gestation,” said Sam Shablin, an animal endocrinologist at Disney World, and before that, we actually had been monitoring elephant Nadirah’s hormone levels for many years.”

Corra is several years away from potential motherhood. For now, she’s getting the hang of the savanna and how to be an elephant.

“Right now, a lot of it is mimicking behavior and that’s how they learn,” Warncke said. “You saw her out in the yard kind of munching on the browse pieces. She’s not actually ingesting it, but she sees her mom do it so she wants to chew it too.”