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Belgium’s most famous elephant, Kai-Mook, turns 10
Ten years ago this week, Belgium experienced the birth of a baby elephant for the first time. This photo of beloved Planckendael resident Kai-Mook shows her with her own daughter, Tun Kai.
The Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp, which runs both Antwerp Zoo and Planckendael animal park in Mechelen, is celebrating Kai-Mook’s 10th birthday this weekend. The birth of Kai-Mook was a major media event, as she was the first elephant ever born in Belgium.
In fact, Kai-Mook’s birth on 17 May 2009 was an event in all of Europe: Very few Asian elephants are born in European zoos every year, and they often do not survive. Planckendael, for instance, lost one of the three babies born there between December 2017 and April 2018.
More than 100,000 people in Belgium and abroad watched Kai-Mook’s birth via live cam, and non-stop media coverage followed. The zoo saw its best year ever, as people line up in droves over the next several months to get a glimpse of the fast-growing baby.
It was a bit of a boon that Kai-Mook was a girl. That meant she could safely stay in Antwerp. A male would have eventually gone into the European breeding exchange programme.
Nine years ago, the zoo celebrated Kai-Mook’s first birthday with a giant cake made of hay, fruit and vegetables. Born at 80 kilograms, Kai-Mook weighed in at 600 kilograms on her first birthday.
In 2012, Kai-Mook and the rest of the Asian elephant herd moved to Planckendael. Last year Kai-Mook gave birth to her first baby, Tun Kai.
During Kai-Mook’s birthday weekend – from Friday to Sunday – all kids born in 2009 get into Planckendael for free.
Photo: Birthday girl Kai-Mook and her year-old daughter live it up at Planckendael ©Jonas Verhulst/Planckendael