Smithsonian’s National Zoo Celebrates Male Asian Elephant Spike’s Public Debut


Zoo Visitors: As part of a special welcome on Saturday, April 28, Zoo visitors can see Spike with special enrichment in his yard throughout the day. Come say hello to the newest pachyderm!

On April 27, 2018, Asian elephant Spike received a celebratory cake as he explored his new habitat in the Elephant Community Center at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. The elephant-friendly frozen treat was made by the Zoo’s Department of Nutrition Sciences and consisted of a frozen banana tree trunk filled with carrots, pineapple, mango, papaya and sugar cane, among other treats.

Visitors to the Zoo can now see Spike as he continues to explore the Elephant Community Center and Elephant Trails habitat. He can also be seen on the Zoo’s Elephant Cam.

The 36-year-old male elephant came to the Zoo March 23 from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Florida. He received a recommendation to breed with the Zoo’s 27-year-old female elephant, Maharani, from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. During his quarantine period, Spike had access to two stalls inside the elephant barn and one off-exhibit outdoor yard.

Based on behavioral cues, the Zoo’s elephant care team will reintroduce Spike to Maharani as well as to females Kamala and Swarna. He previously shared a habitat with all three while at the Calgary Zoo in Canada. Although Spike was not able to physically interact with the Zoo’s female elephants while in quarantine, they have been able to see and communicate with each other.

The Zoo will provide updates on Spike on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Treat Ingredients

Made by the Zoo’s Department of Nutrition Sciences, the treats featured in the video and photos consists of a frozen banana tree trunk filled with carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, butternut squash, corn, apple, pear, orange, grapes, banana, pineapple, melon, mango, papaya and sugar cane.

Spike Biography

  • Spike was born July 2, 1981, at Zoo Miami. He is 36 years old.
  • Spike weighs approximately 13,000 pounds.
  • He is joining Ambika (70), Shanthi (43), Kamala (43), Swarna (43), Bozie (43) and Maharani (27) at the Elephant Trails exhibit.
  • After Hurricane Andrew swept through Florida and damaged part of Zoo Miami’s elephant habitat in August 1992, Spike was relocated to the Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he shared a habitat with Kamala, Swarna and Maharani. All three females currently live at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
  • Spike returned to Florida in September 2013 when he was transferred to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
  • Spike arrived at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo March 23, 2018. The interstate trip was 900 miles. The team left Tampa, Florida, at 12:30 p.m. March 22 and arrived in Washington, D.C., at 8:13 a.m. March 23.
  • He is on loan from Zoo Miami.
  • The Zoo received a recommendation to breed Spike and Maharani from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP matches individual animals across the country for breeding in order to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining population.
  • Spike is genetically valuable, as his genes are not represented in the North American Asian elephant population. He bred with Maharani while at the Calgary Zoo. She conceived three times. Although she gave birth to two live young in November 2004 and August 2007, neither of the calves survived; in October 2012, she delivered a premature stillborn calf.