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Mother and daughter elephants make public debut at National Zoo

The new Asian elephants came to the D.C. zoo in November from the Netherlands

New Asian elephants Trong Nhi (right) and her daughter, Nhi Linh, are on public view at the National Zoo. (Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)
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Hello, mama and daughter!

Two Asian elephants — a 19-year-old mother and her 9-year-old daughter — can now be seen by the public at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in D.C.

The pair have been in quarantine since they arrived Nov. 7 to the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest Washington.

The mother elephant is Trong Nhi (pronounced trong-nEE) and her daughter is Nhi Linh (pronounced nEE-lin). They came to the D.C. zoo as a gift from the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands, where they were born.

After two recent deaths, National Zoo gets two new Asian elephants

The addition of the elephants is considered a big deal because zoo experts have said they hope the animals could infuse the elephant breeding program. The National Zoo hasn’t had an elephant calf in 21 years, and two years ago it euthanized two of its female elephants — Ambika, 72, Shanthi, 45 — because of old age and poor health.

The hope is that the two new elephants could eventually mate with a male elephant, Spike. He has been bred often with another female elephant, but for reasons that are unclear she hasn’t gotten pregnant.

Meet Spike: The National Zoo’s new elephant and only male brings hope for a baby

Keepers at the National Zoo have described the new elephants as personable, and veteran elephant manager Marie Galloway said they are “really nice girls.” Trong Nhi doesn’t like to be away from her daughter too much, officials said.

Visitors are most likely to see the pair roaming their enclosure between 10 a.m. and noon each day. And they can be seen on an elephant webcam, too.

Trong Nhi and Nhi Linh have started to meet the other females in the zoo’s elephant herd. Zoo experts said they have done “howdy introductions” — when the elephants can “see, smell and communicate” with one another through a safety barrier.

Bryan Amaral, acting associate director of animal care at the zoo, said in a statement that the new elephants are making progress in their transition to the facility.

Experts will watch for calm demeanor and movements to see if they’re ready to share a space with others. Officials said it’s going to be a while before the pair get introduced to the rest of the herd, which includes five other elephants, and are housed with them. Officials gave no specific time as to when that will happen.

Asian elephants are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In the wild, they’re in decline because of habitat loss and poaching, and scientists estimate there are 30,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants.

Michael E. Ruane contributed to this report.