We are celebrating Osh’s sweet sixteen on May 24th by spoiling him with lots of his favorite treats, like usual, since he’s the only boy elephant at the Oakland Zoo. Weighing in at 10,100 pounds and standing at 9 feet 10 inches tall, the studly young man is all legs. His father Yossi, of Israel, is thought to be one of the tallest bulls in captivity standing at about 12 feet tall. When Osh arrived he was only eight feet tall and about seven thousand pounds. We project that when Osh is thirty years of age he will be as tall as his father, and continue growing!
Osh came to us from Howletts Wild Animal Park all the way in England. While at Howletts, Osh was housed with his mother and aunties but was coming of age and beginning to be kicked out of the herd. This is a natural occurrence in the wild where the females will start to kick out the young males from nine to twelve years of age. The young males then go
on to seek out new territory, learn from older males, and find new females. Osh needed a new home, so our keepers flew out to Howletts in 2004 and brought him home by plane, ferry, and truck, a very long and exhausting journey.
Everyone took a liking to Osh, everyone but Donna, our dominant female. During the first introduction she chased him around the yard and then knocked him to his knees. They did not have full access to each other for two years, until after a year of cooperative feeding training, wherein they were successfully reintroduced. This type of training teaches the dominant animal to allow the subordinate to stand close by while receiving food treats without being aggressive. Osh now has the closest relationship with Donna amongst the girls. She often times backs into him and even shys away from him when food is involved even though he is never aggressive toward her. He is still subordinate to Lisa and M’Dunda, but frequently solicits play with them over the fence line during the evening, and even with M’Dunda on exhibit during the day.
Osh is a very playful young boy, loves interaction with both his keepers and the other elephants. He enjoys long walks in the grass and hours of grazing and browsing. Palm, birch, and elm are a few of his favorite trees to eat. He has been spotted in the pool a few times now thrashing around with his feet and trunk just for fun. When he walks he loves to bobble his head, and hangs his head very low, giving him the appearance of being shorter than the females. The top of his left ear is folded over the wrong way from birth and his right tusk is very small and downward pointing making him easy to identify. So far he has not shown any behavioral signs of musth, although his testosterone levels have been as high in comparison to bulls in captivity that have been in musth. He has a very playful demeanor as a sixteen year old boy does, so we often call him a punk, even though he’ll always be our little boy.