Ueno Zoo debuts elephant duo presented by Thailand

A pair of young Asian elephants sent from Thailand’s Surin Province as a gift to celebrate the birth of Princess Aiko made their first public appearance Tuesday at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo.

The elephants — a 5-year-old male named Artid and a 4-year-old female named Authi — were also given to mark the Surin provincial government’s gratitude to a Japanese nongovernmental organization for its 20 years of involvement in tree-planting efforts there.

In a ceremony attended by delegates from both countries, zoo director Hiroshi Sugaya expressed hope the pair will produce offspring, as breeding by Asian elephants in Japan is rare.

The elephants came to Japan on Oct. 11 with two male trainers. The pachyderms are being trained in Thai by the trainers, who are expected to leave Japan next week.

A zoo worker expressed hope to someday train the elephants in Japanese.

The elephants’ arrival marks the first time local authorities in Thailand have presented elephants to Japan. In 1965, the Thai royal family presented a male elephant to commemorate a 1964 visit to the country by then Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko, the current Emperor and Empress.

It died at Ueno Zoo last week. The zoo also has two female Asian elephants given by India.

Princess Aiko, the first child of Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako, was born Dec. 1.