Taronga Zoo’s young male Asian Elephant calf born at 3.27 am this morning is showing some early encouraging signs including attempting to suckle from its mother, Porntip and meeting other herdmates.
The Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian, Dr Larry Vogelnest said: “The calf hasalready had some contact with the other elephants in the herd, touchingtrunks with the older females and also the zoo’s first calf, Luk Chai, an eight-month old male.”
“The others are very excited and curious, reaching out to him with their trunks whenever he gets close.”
“Porntip is already showing signs of being an excellent mother, trying to help him suckle although he hasn’t quite managed to suckle yet. She’s in good health and has been getting to know her calf, gently touching the young animal with her trunk.”
The Birth Team has reported that in between sleeps, the calf began taking its first steps mid-morning and is moving around the birthing penin the Elephant Barn.
Dr Vogelnest said: “We’ve been able to give him several litres of colostrum, the important first milk for newborns and we think he weighs between 90 and 100 kg.”
“Our initial impressions are that he is stockier than Luk Chai but maybe not as tall.”
The zoo’s Director Cameron Kerr this afternoon said: “The Zoo’s elephant team are focussing entirely on supporting the calf through the critical first 24 hours and we’re asking for patience and understanding while they endeavour to give the youngster its best chance of survival.”
“Advice from world elephant reproduction expert, Dr Thomas Hildebrandt of the Berlin Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Health is that such an outcome after a protracted labour has never been seen before. He said the birth will completely re-write the elephant birth text books.”
Dr Vogelnest said: “The early indications are that the calf survived the protracted labour in a coma. That unconscious state would explain the complete absence of any vital signs during all the checks and examinations we conducted during the labour and led us to believe the calf had not survived.”
Elephant Manager, Gary Miller, said: “When the keepers learned the calf had survived this morning, the looks of disbelief on our faces werequite a picture. We couldn’t believe that this could be true.”
The other elephants in the herd, Pak Boon, Tang Mo and Thong Dee, aswell as the older calf, Luk Chai, have been gently caressing the newborn with their trunks, touching trunk tips and very interested in the new calf.
Dr Vogelnest said the Birth Team was taking everything moment by moment and the first 24 hours is critical to the calf’s future.