Singapore, 20 November 2011 – Nila Utama, the first elephant to be born at the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari in nine years, is making yet another small but deep footprint today as he celebrates his first birthday at an exclusive tea party.

The little elephant, lovingly referred to as ‘Nila’ by his keepers and who is named after the Palembang prince who founded the kingdom of Singapura, will receive a giant birthday cake made with carrots, wheat and ice, among other ingredients, while his guests will enjoy delicious elephant-shaped mini cakes and other tea-time treats during the celebration.

As part of the 2-hour programme, invited guests will be taken on a gourmet safari tram ride at the Night Safari, which stops at the Asian elephants exhibit where the party will be held. They will get to see the Nila and his family frolicking in the water and observe the close bonds between the elephants and their keepers.

“The birth of Nila Utama was a significant milestone for us as it underscored the importance of education and conservation of Asian elephants in the wild,” said Mr. Kumar Pillai, General Manager, Night Safari. “This mini event is not only a birthday celebration for Nila – it also highlights the success of captive breeding programmes like ours and the plight of these beautiful animals in the wild.”

Currently housed at the Asian elephants exhibit at the Night Safari, the birthday boy is an active calf and has his own unique quirks. Keepers noticed his strong sense of independence right from his birth. He is also inquisitive and fun-loving, and always relishing the chance to play with the logs or those along his path at the exhibit. He also likes to swim and wallow in the mud whenever he has the chance.

Nila was born on 23 November last year to mother Nandong and father Chawang, and is the 11th addition to the population of Asian elephants at Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which manages the Night Safari, Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and the upcoming River Safari. He was a whopping 151kg at birth, and at 11 months of age, is a healthy elephant weighing 544 kilograms and measuring 1.38 metres in height. Considered large for a newborn at 1.5 times the average size, Nila arrived after 3 hours of labour. He has two siblings – 12-year-old Sang Raja which is currently at Cologne Zoo, Germany, and nine-year-old Sang Wira which still resides at the Night Safari.

Asian elephants are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is protected from international trade by its listing on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). They are more endangered than their better recognised counterpart, the African elephants and the threat of habitat loss is eminent for these creatures. The native homes of the Asian elephants are often being logged and cleared for urban and agricultural development. They are also often captured and killed by poachers for their tusks.

Asian elephants are found in the forests of India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. These gentle giants survive on a diet of grass, leaves, bark, roots and fruits. Many of them are widely domesticated and are used for forestry, harvesting, or ceremonial purposes. There are only an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants left in the wild today.

For more information on the Asian elephants at the Night Safari, please visit

One-year-old baby elephant Nila Utama takes a walk with his mother, Sri Nandong, at the Night Safari.


Singapore, 4 April 2011 – This April, Night Safari visitors will get to see the park’s first baby elephant in nine years, when the five-month-old calf makes his first public appearance. Born on 23 November last year, this latest addition to Night Safari’s brood of endangered Asian elephants has been named ‘Nila Utama’, after the Sumatran prince Sang Nila Utama, who founded the kingdom of Singapura in 1324.

The bold and inquisitive elephant was sired by Chawang, the sole bull elephant at Night Safari, which is managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS). Now 125cm tall and weighing a hefty 318 kg, it is the first elephant to be born at both Night Safari and Singapore Zoo in almost a decade. Visitors can witness the close bond between mother and baby at the Asian elephant exhibit from April onwards.

“Our four-month-old calf is growing up to be strong, curious, and independent. He is not afraid to leave his mother’s side to explore his surroundings and we have seen the little one even getting into the pool of water himself. Nila Utama is like our very own ‘Singapore son’ and we are excited for Singaporeans and tourists to get acquainted with him. WRS hopes his birth will go towards sustaining and increasing the population of Asian elephants both in captivity and in the wild,” said Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO of WRS.

Nila Utama is the 11th addition to the family of Asian elephants at WRS, which also runs the Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari. His mother, Sri Nandong, has raised two other males, Sang Raja (‘noble one’) in 1999 and Sang Wira (‘brave one’) in 2001.

WRS runs successful breeding programmes across all its parks, and has done particularly well with breeding endangered animals such as the pangolin, Malayan sun bear, the orang utans and many others. It works with global partners to increase the gene pool of captive animals through various exchange programmes. For example, Chawang’s semen has been sent to zoos in Australia to help facilitate artificial inseminations with elephants there.

The population of Asian elephants in the wild is dwindling fast – even more so than their better recognised counterpart, the African elephant. An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 are left in the forests of India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Habitat loss poses the most serious threat to the future of these magnificent creatures, as a large part of their native homes are being logged and cleared for urban and agricultural development resulting in human – elephant conflict. WRS is working with Wildlife Conservation Society in mitigating this in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Photo courtesy of Bjorn Olesen
Photo courtesy of Bjorn Olesen