A rare Asian elephant has been born at Chester Zoo in North Wales, UK. The calf was due to be born three months ago. The zookeepers had given up on having a baby elephant at the park, believing that the pregnancy had failed and the fetus had been reabsorbed by the mother.
The typical gestation period for an elephant is somewhere between 18 and 22 months. The newborn calf was born to 35-year-old Thi Hi Way late last night. Seeing as 25 months had passed since Thi had conceived and she had begun to lose weight, the scientists and zookeepers at Chester Zoo all believed that the pregnancy had ultimately failed.
The Telegraph reports that sometimes when living conditions aren’t right or stress becomes a factor, many animals will naturally terminate a pregnancy. They believed that Thi had become stressed and her body had begun to reabsorb her baby.
“We believed Thi had exceeded her normal gestation period, which we were monitoring closely. Her hormone levels, behavior and drop in weight gave us every indication that she may have been resorbing the calf – a natural process that some elephants experience.”
Thi’s keepers were astonished when low and behold, the calf was simply taking his time and hesitant to meet the world. The video below shows Thi’s son, staying close by her side. He is less than 24-hours-old and playing in the mud.
The Asian elephant calf was already on his feet suckling from his mother when the zookeepers went to check on their herd this morning. He is healthy and becoming very social, even getting along nicely with the other members of the family, including 1-year-old calves, Indali and Aayu.
Chester Zoo belongs to the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums, otherwise known as EAZA. The program holds a strong focus toward sustaining the European elephant population. At 35-years-old, Thi is not only a new mother, but she also has great grand-calves.
Asian elephants are regarded as a red-listed endangered species. They are susceptible to habitat loss, disease, and poaching. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Asian elephants once roamed freely in large herds. As the human population grows, the forests where these elephants once roamed and grazed are taken over.
Hungry elephants are forced to find food outside of their natural habitat, opening them up to danger. When elephants wander into populated areas, human fatalities also become an issue. Today, due to habitat loss and fragmentation, their numbers have greatly declined.
It is estimated that there are as few as 20,000 Asian elephants left in the wild. The birth of Thi’s calf is hugely important to the conservation efforts of these magnificent animals.