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Rural Missouri Magazine

300-pounds of joy
Dickerson Park Zoo, Springfield, MO

by Heather Berry

In July, Springfield’s Dickerson Park Zoo became home to a 238-pound baby girl elephant named Nisha. The name, an Indian word meaning “night,” refers to the calf’s overnight birth at 1:35 a.m., on July 18. The name was selected by zoo staff from more than 830 names submitted by the public.

Nisha, who currently weighs 361 pounds, is the third calf for Moola, Nisha’s 25-year-old mother, and the first offspring for 18-year-old bull, Sabu. The pachyderm bundle of joy was the sixth successful elephant birth at Dickerson Park Zoo and the first since 1999.

The zoo is widely recognized by experts for pioneering work in breeding Asian elephants. The zoo is an integral part of the Asian and African Elephant Species Survival Program accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, based in Maryland.

Dickerson Park Zoo’s breeding program dates to the early ’80s, when zoos were trying to maintain their herds after the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 barred the importation of wild elephants. In response, they began their own breeding program.

Currently, the zoo is home to an elephant herd of two adult bulls, four adult cows and baby Nisha. Staff reports Nisha is very bright, ornery and enjoys playing her version of the children’s game King of the Hill on a mound of dirt in the elephant’s spacious outdoor play area.

The Dickerson Park Zoo is located at 1401 W. Norton Road in Springfield. For hours or information, call (417) 864-1800 or log onto www.dickersonparkzoo.org.

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