Disney Hopes Its 'Curious, Confident' Baby Elephant Will Inspire Visitors to Help the Species

Corra's birth is significant for the endangered species — and offers a learning experience for Walt Disney World visitors, too

<p>Walt Disney World</p> Baby elephant Corra debuts at Disney

Walt Disney World

Baby elephant Corra debuts at Disney's Animal Kingdom

On Thursday, Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom marked an exciting milestone when baby elephant Corra made her public debut on the savanna inside the park.

The calf — who was born on Dec. 13, 2023 — bounded out of her living quarters, followed closely by her mom, Nadirah, who is 8 years old and was also born on the Florida property. Then the pair grazed as visitors on the Kilmanjaro Safaris ride delighted in their presence as their vehicles quietly rolled by.

Later on, Corra and Nadirah were joined by other members of their family, including Nadirah's mom Donna and her half-sisters, Corra's aunts Stella and Luna. The family of five will stick together on the savanna, guiding Corra through her early years, as is typical of female elephants in the wild.

Though the cuteness is all new to Disney Parks visitors, it's been years in the making for Animal Kingdom staff, who helped Nadirah conceive naturally with one of the park's three male elephants, Mac, then aided her through pregnancy (22 months!) and birth.

<p>Walt Disney World</p> Baby elephant Corra debuts at Disney World's Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World

Baby elephant Corra debuts at Disney World's Animal Kingdom

"The entire process is very slow," says Liz Warncke, animal care Mmanager for Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment. "We start with small introductions just to kind of see [the elephants'] first reactions to each other. Fortunately for us, Mac and Nadirah were always very interested in each other."

Staff endocrinologists were already tracking Nadirah's cycles, and could tell from spikes in certain hormones that she was pregnant in early 2022. From there, Animal Kingdom staff monitored every aspect of her pregnancy, conducting ultrasounds, checking her vital signs and adjusting her diet as necessary.

When Nadirah's due date was nearing, endocrinologists were able to determine an 85-day window in which they could expect Corra's arrival. Then finally, the big day came.

Related: Baby African Elephant Born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the First Time in 7 Years

"She was uncomfortable for the last few days leading up to Corra's birth, but nothing to where we saw the signs of active labor," Warncke recalls. "And then right before [delivery] she actually lied down and went to sleep. Me and another keeper were there, like, 'Well, she's sleeping, it's probably not going to happen tonight.' And then she got up and started showing some heavy labor signs — doing some pretty intense stretching, moving around the yard — and maybe 10, 15 mintutes later we had a calf on the ground."

Nadirah's sister Luna, 13 — who is currently pregnant herself — stayed by her side throughout labor and delivery. Though caretakers observed, they did not intervene.

<p>Walt Disney World</p> Baby elephant Corra at Disney's Animal Kingdom with her herd

Walt Disney World

Baby elephant Corra at Disney's Animal Kingdom with her herd

"It was a support system for Nadirah, so she wasn't by herself," Warncke explains of Luna's presence. "They're pregnant for so long and then all of a sudden there's this tiny baby on the ground, and it's moving. She's like, 'I don't know what's happening!' So they kind of come together and figure out what's happening."

Warncke says Nadirah has been "nothing but amazing as a first-time mom. She dotes on Corra." In her early days, Corra was too small to reach her particularly tall mom to nurse. It was an issue staff was able to anticipate based on how they studied the baby's growth in utero, so keepers built special podiums around the elephants' yard, teaching Nadirah to walk to them and properly position herself during her pregnancy. Now, as Corra continues to grow, it's been less of an issue for the pair, who will continue nursing in the months to come.

What has never been an issue for Corra is bravery and independence. "She's very curious and super confident," says Warncke. "Anything new for her, there's no hesitancy there. She's just really excited."

<p>Walt Disney World</p> Corra and her mother, Nadirah

Walt Disney World

Corra and her mother, Nadirah

Corra's arrival is "an opportunity for zoos as a whole to tell the elephant story to people," says Dr. Scott Terrell, director of animal and science operations for Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment. "Elephants are endangered. The fact that it takes two years between every baby means that every baby, whether in the wild or in a zoological environment, is critical in that regard."

Terrell is particularly proud that the Animal Kingdom now has three generations of elephants living on its savanna, echoing the family dynamic seen in the wild.

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To those who might argue animals are better off in the wild than in zoos or settings like Animal Kingdom, Terrell says "good zoos care about two things: caring for animals and caring for their counterparts in the wild. And that's what my entire team lives by."

To that end, Terrell says the Disney Conservation Fund has given $125 million to conservation efforts worldwide, including the Elephants and Bees Project, which protects both species by placing bees (which elephants are afraid of) at farms in Africa that elephants might otherwise overeat from.

<p>Walt Disney World</p> Corra and her mother, Nadirah

Walt Disney World

Corra and her mother, Nadirah

On Thursday, keepers left it up to Corra on whether or not she would enter the public-facing savanna at Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safaris, coaxing Nadirah with bales of hay but little intervention otherwise. However, the calf came running out ahead of her mom, surprising safari-goers and even their drivers, many of whom were seeing the little one for the first time.

Related: Disney's Adorable New Baby Elephant Makes Her Public Debut at Animal Kingdom Park

Corra and her family will spend several hours on the savanna most days, rotating with the other elephants (which aside from the three males includes another mother-daughter pair) on who is seen and who is in the more private elephant habitat.

The calf already responds to her name — chosen by keepers, it means "daughter" in Greek — and continues to settle in nicely with her herd, bonding with her grandmother and aunts, despite what Warncke calls some "growing pains" from 7-year-old Stella about no longer being the baby of the family. She also sees her dad Mac frequently, though just as in the wild, male and female elephants socialize separately at Animal Kingdom.

Terrell hopes that visitors to Animal Kingdom who catch a glimpse of Corra will leave inspired.

"Maybe they'll go home and read a little bit, learn about elephants and bees, or not buy ivory, or if they're fortunate enough, they'll go to Africa on a safari and contribute to the local economy," he says. "We can all make little differences in the world that will protect elephants."

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