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Coming into their Own

The ABQ BioPark Zoo's male elephants Albert and Samson are growing up.

Albert, a bull Asian elephant at the ABQ BioPark Zoo. Photo: Tina Deines.

Photo: Albert.

Sept. 23, 2016 - Half-brothers Samson and Albert came to the ABQ BioPark as elephant youngsters. At the time, they were 4 and 5 years old and about 1,500 pounds.

Today, at 17 and 18, they top 4 tons each and are on the "verge of macho awesomeness," said Rhonda Saiers, ABQ BioPark Senior Zookeeper.

The older of the two, Samson is the shyer one; he’s less confident and looks to trainers to make decisions. Albert is more outgoing.

"Albert has been full grown in his head since he was 4 years old," said Saiers. "He’s an extremely confident bull."

The two have spent the majority of their lives together, but they are beginning to enter a solitary period typical of bull elephants. That means they will spend less time together. Samson, who is chosen for breeding by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, will be spending more time with the female herd—but not too much time.

In the wild, male Asian elephants live mostly solitary lives, joining herds when females are in estrus and interacting with them at the watering hole.

"A bull’s job in life is to eat and breed," Saiers said.

Elephant keepers work with Albert and Samson daily on behaviors that will assist the staff in maintaining their physical and mental well-being. Each elephant knows more than 70 behaviors ranging from standing on a scale to get weighed to presenting a tusk for an x-ray. Saiers said the bulls are extremely motivated to train.

"They’re incredibly amazing, smart, well-behaved bulls," Saiers said. "They’re two of the most well behaved bulls in the country, if you ask me. They’re just beautiful ambassadors for their species."

Photo: Samson.

Story: Tina Deines