Moja the elephant set a new world record for the longest African elephant pregnancy. After 688 days (!!!), Moja gave birth to her first calf in nine years at the Pittsburgh Zoo this summer. Luckily for the youngster, another baby elephant was born just a few weeks earlier and, as you can see in the more recent pictures, they make perfect playmates.
Playpals. Check out their muddy trunks!
July 25, 2008 -
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s elephant team is seeing double these days. Moja, the Zoo’s second pregnant elephant, has given birth. The new female calf arrived at 5:30 a.m., July 25, 2008. This is the second baby elephant birth for the Zoo this month. On July 9, Savanna gave birth to a baby girl. “This will certainly be a balancing act with two baby elephants. They will keep us on our toes,” says Willie Theison, Pittsburgh Zoo elephant manager. In addition, Moja set a record for the longest pregnancy on record for an African elephant, being pregnant 688 days. The previous record was 674 days. And, it is not the only record Moja has set. When Victoria, Moja’s first calf, was born in 1999, Moja became the first African elephant born at a U.S. Zoo to give birth at a U.S. Zoo.
“We have so many emotions. We are thrilled, but exhausted all at the same time,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Zoo. “It was another incredible birth and a milestone in improving the care and understanding of African elephants.” The first 30 days of the young elephant’s life are critical. She must first accomplish the important milestone of bonding successfully with her mother and the rest of the herd. Continuing to grow is the next important step.
The mortality rate for African elephants in the U.S. has decreased since 2003. Ten years ago it was more than 40 percent, now it is closer to 15 percent. “Advanced technology, such as 4-D ultrasound, and information we learn from each birth is helping tremendously in lowering the mortality rate,” says Dr. Baker. “For instance we now know a key component for a successful birth is exercise. Moja and Savanna have had an exercise routine for the past two years that includes vigorous walks through the Zoo. We were more concerned with Moja’s pregnancy because she was overdue. We were in uncharted territory.”
The new baby girl elephant appears to be doing very well and is bonding with her mother. With the help of her mother, the newborn calf stood up about 20 minutes after she was born. “They are so clumsy at first,” says Theison. “They need to learn to walk and to use their trunks.” Moja’s baby will learn a lot by watching and mimicking her mother and older sister Victoria’s, behavior, as well as other members of the elephant herd. “This will be good experience for Victoria. She has the opportunity to develop her own maternal skills by watching her mother handle the new baby,” says Theison.
Today’s birth is the fourth successful birth of an African elephant at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Victoria was born to Moja in September of 1999. Callee was born to Savanna in September of 2000. Jackson, the father of all four calves, is one of three breeding bulls in the country. One of the major goals of the Pittsburgh Zoo is to work to ensure the survival of African elephants in North America and ultimately help to protect the species in Africa. There are currently 149 African elephants in 49 Zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and many of them are aging, which emphasizes the need for successful breeding programs.”