Bulwagi was born in captivity at the Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Florida, near West Palm Beach. He was sired by "Peter", a male captured in Kenya in 1967 who died in 1987, and borne by "Mama" a female captured in South Africa in 1972 and now at the Dallas Zoo.
In his youth, Bulwagi damaged his right tusk in a fall. It developed a cavity and was removed by veterinarians there, leaving him one-tusked.
While at Lion Country, it was discovered that although Bulwagi was an ineffective sexual partner, he had the highest sperm count of any male elephant at an accredited US zoo, making him valuable as a stud via artificial insemination. He sired seven offspring between 2002 and 2005, three of which were stillborn and one of which died soon after birth. His surviving sons are "Louie" (born April 30, 2003 to "Renee" at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio, where he remains on exhibit), "Tamani" (born October 17, 2005 to "Ellie" at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida, and transferred to Birmingham in 2012) and "Kedar" (born October 18, 2005 to "Kubwa" at the Indianapolis Zoo in Indiana, where he remains on exhibit). Bulwagi's trainer, Terry Wolf, was profiled in the local press and made appearances on "The Daily Show" and "To Tell the Truth" based on his unique relationship with Bulwagi.
The park also featured a carnival-style children's ride with elephant-shaped cars called "Bulwagi's Flying Adventure" (since renamed the "Elephant Ride").
Bulwagi was joined intially by Callee from the Pittsburgh Zoo and Ajani from the Indianapolis Zoo, both 19 years' Bulwagi's junior. A fourth elephant was originally planned to arrive from the Dresden Zoo in late summer, but was not brought over. Planners have said that the exhibit was designed for as many as 6 to 8 males.
In 2015 the Zoo's Director of Animal Health, Stephanie McCain, worked with UAB School of Engineering Director of Materials Processing and Development Brian Pillay to find a way to brace Bulwagi's remaining damaged tusk. Pillay and his students developed layered supports made from carbon fiber and fiber glass to encircle the tusk where it had developed a crack and also to reinforce its lateral strength. The tusk became infected later that year and most of it was surgically removed in May 2016.
- Minton, Eric (November 2, 2001) "Truth semen". The Loop. Vol. 1, No. 20
- Barton, Eric Alan (August 7, 2003) "Lion Country's Stud: An elephant's, um, premature problem means zookeepers have a messy job" New Times (Broward/Palm Beach, Florida)
- Wolfe, Kelly (September 22, 2006) "Lion Country's elephants packing their trunks" Palm Beach Post
- Thornton, William (December 8, 2010) "First elephant makes home in Birmingham Zoo's Trails of Africa exhibit." The Birmingham News
- Thornton, William (April 21, 2011) "Birmingham Zoo's elephants get to know each other." The Birmingham News
- Thornton, William (May 13, 2011) "Birmingham Zoo elephant herd swells to 3 with arrival of bull from Indianapolis." The Birmingham News
- Leu, Chelsea (November 19, 2015) "Bulwagi the elephant cracked his tusk. Carbon fiber to the rescue!" WIRED
- Hrynkiw, Ivana (May 12, 2016) "Birmingham Zoo elephant's tusk removal surgery a success." The Birmingham News