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The first elephant calf born in Australia has been officially named today, with Premier Nathan Rees revealing the young Asian elephant would be called ‘Luk Chai’.

The Premier made the announcement with 30 students from Middle Harbour Public School - the first to hear the name when they made a quick visit to see the elephants.

Mr Rees said the name was chosen from more than 30,000 community entries in a competition to name Taronga Zoo’s newest addition.

“Communities across NSW have embraced this competition and I would like to thank everyone who participated,” Mr Rees said.

“Luk Chai is very special as he is the first calf born in the conservation breeding program for Asian Elephants established by Australasian Zoos.”

The keepers chose the Thai name ‘Luk Chai’ which means ‘son’ and Chai can also mean ‘triumph’.

“The name recognises the young elephant’s Thai heritage, as well as his boisterous, inquisitive nature,” Mr Rees said.

“On a more practical level, the keepers were also looking for a name that would be easy for the young calf to recognise.”

The Premier was also joined today by Thailand’s Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, his Excellency Mr Suwit Khunkitti and Deputy Premier and Minister of Climate Change and the Environment Carmel Tebbutt.

Luk Chai lives at Taronga Zoo with his mother, Thong Dee, and aunts, Porntip, Pak Boon and Tang Mo.

The numbers of Asian elephants in the wild has fallen to as low as 34,000 across 13 countries in Asia.

Ms Tebbutt said the aim of the program was to establish a self-sustaining breeding herd in the region.

“Elephants at Taronga have already helped regional conservation efforts by providing DNA material to help authorities establish a DNA database for elephants across Thailand,” she said.

“Another four female elephants - two at Taronga and two at Melbourne Zoo - are also pregnant, with Taronga’s Porntip calf due in early 2010 and Pak Boon in early 2011.

“These are fantastic results and I congratulate everyone involved.”

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