Baby elephant born at Bedfordshire's Whipsnade Zoo named in honour of the Queen

A baby Asian elephant born at the UK's biggest zoo has been named after Queen Elizabeth II - who once fed a banana to the calf's mother during a visit.

The one month-old at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire has been named Nang Phaya, the Thai word for Queen or strong.

The name was chosen to honour the late monarch, who had been patron of the zoo since her coronation in 1953.

The Queen's encounter with Donna, the calf's mother, in 2017, had an impact on the monarch - a picture of the meeting later featured on her official Christmas card that year.

  • Watch the Queen's visit to Whipsnade Zoo in 2017

ZSL's elephant project officer Saravanee Namsupak said: "We were so delighted to be asked to name her.

"When we saw photos of the adorable elephant calf, we fell in love instantly," she added.

Nang Phaya is an animal-related Thai word meaning queen or strong. Credit: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

"We wanted a name that represented who she is as a future matriarch of the Whipsnade herd, but also her part in the wider story of endangered Asian elephants, like those we work to protect in Thailand.

"Naming her Nang Phaya seemed like the perfect way to pay tribute to HM The Queen for her work as ZSL's patron and honour Donna's famous encounter with her," she added.

"As the boisterous, youngest female in a matriarchal family line, her new name is perfect," said Stefan Groeneveld, elephant team leader at the zoo.

"Definitely a leader-in-the-making, Nang Phaya is energetic and playful, climbing on anything and everything and racing around the elephant habitat while her mum Donna, grandma Kaylee and the rest of the herd try to keep up.

"Although not on solid food yet, she has been experimenting with using her trunk to pick up twigs and is gradually getting the knack of using it."

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