A 41-year-old elephant has been introduced to its another of its kind for the first time in over three decades.
Mila met Mary, the leader of the herd at San Diego Zoo, after being kept as a lone elephant in a circus for over 30 years and then taken in by Franklin Zoo in New Zealand.
Video footage of the heart-warming meeting shows the African elephants entwining their trunks through a wire fence.
Kindred spirits: Mila meets herd leader Mary at San Diego Zoo after being kept as a lone elephant in a circus for over 30 year
It is common for elephants to communicate by touching and entwining their trunks, according to African Elephant expert Tim Fullman’s website. He writes that trunks ‘play an important role in smell and that rubbing trunks in greeting may be partially to smell each other to gain information.’
Mila’s former keeper Helen Schofield, who was crushed to death by Mila in an accident in 2012, had always hoped the elephant would one day be returned to a herd of its own kind.
The tragic incident sparked a fundraising effort by supporters of the zoo, who hoped to raise enough money for Mila to be relocated to a zoo with that had other African elephants.
The supporters raised $1.5 million, enough for Mila to be moved from New Zealand to San Diego Zoo.
Friendship grows: Mila entwines trunks with the matriach of the herd Mary in a heart-warming scene
Touching trunks: It is common for elephants to communicate to each other by touching and entwining their trunks
Elephant talk: Trunks play an important role in smell and this greeting may be to smell each other to gain information
San Diego Zoo’s African elephant herd includes six African and Indian elephants ranging in age from 33 to 49 years old.
Lead keeper at the zoo Ron Ringer says that so far, Mila and Mary are really hitting it off.
‘Mary walked up to Mila and they both started eating from the same tree,’ Mr Ringer said. ‘This is a great behavior to see because they were both calm and accepting of each other and it’s one of the types of things we look for with animal introductions.
Accidental death: Mila’s former keeper Helen Schofield was crushed to death by the elephant in an accident in 2012
Zoo keepers felt the best way to introduce Mila to the herd was to start with a one-on-one with the matriach.
‘In late January, we gave Mila the first opportunity to meet another elephant with limited interaction. We decided that Mary was the best option, given she is a dominant elephant in the herd, is relatively calm, and has a good track record with meeting newcomers.’
‘Being excited, nervous, scared, aggressive, or submissive were all possibilities we could have expected to observe,’ zookeeper Robbie Clark said.
‘Mary was curious of the newbie while Mila was surprised to find something as big as her on the other side of the wall!’