Soap Opera at the Safari: Granny Taking Over Newborn Elephant

Ramat Gan safari park officials worry that the grandmother, La Petite, is interfering in mom and baby elephants' bonding.

Congratulations to La Belle, the Asian elephant who on Friday gave birth to a 200-pound baby girl at the Safari Park in Ramat Gan!

At least that weight is the best guess of officials at the Safari Park, more officially known as The Zoological Center Tel Aviv - Ramat Gan. They also think the dewy-eyed cutie is about a meter tall.

"We didn't measure her in order not to interfere – it's very important to intervene as little possible," explains Sagit Horowitz, Safari spokeswoman.

Newborn Asian elephants are typically around 100 kilos, Horowitz says, but this one is on the small side, as is her proud mother La Belle, 7, and also her diminutive grandmother, La Petite, 25, who – as the pictures show – both hover lovingly over Baby.

And here lies a rather large rub.

The baby – see the pictures – is nursing beautifully. But she's nursing from Granny, not her mother, and the safari is a little worried.

While the safari would prefer to interfere in the family as little as possible, the officials are thinking of isolating La Petite, to help the baby and mother bond. "The grandmother is horning in rather too much," says Horowitz.

Why is this a problem, actually? For one thing, La Petite is also pregnant, and moving her would require a mild sedative, which is a bad thing for an expecting mother, Horowitz says.

Also, there is a possibility that poor La Belle is simply overwhelmed. "This is her first live baby," says Horowitz, explaining that the elephant had miscarried in the past. "She may not know what to do, and the grandmother may be helping out." If that's the case, separating the two adults might not be a good course of action.

The father, Motek, 53, has been isolated from his ladies and the baby to help the bonding between the mother and baby.

The bottom line is, safari people are keeping watch on the family 24/7, merely observing to decide on the best course of action. One hoped-for possibility is that La Petite will also have her baby any moment, and then the two mothers with their two babies will work things out properly, says Horowitz. The fact that the granny is nursing the baby indicates birth may be imminent: clearly she's producing something. Stay tuned.

Yasmin Levi-Schuster