Taronga's third Asian Elephant calf was born at 1:12 AM last night Sydney Time. The calf is the Zoo's first female and it is the fifth calf born to the Australian Conservation Management Plan for these endangered elephants. The calf was born in the paddock four years to the day of the arrival of the herd from Thailand in 2006. Zoo keepers helped the healthy 120 kg youngster into the elephant barn with its mother, Pak Boon, where it was soon walking around and suckling without help.
Photo credits: Bobby-Jo Vial / Taronga Zoo
Zoo Director and CE, Cameron Kerr, said: “This is another outstanding milestone in an exceptional conservation breeding program for Asian Elephants. In just four years since the self-sustaining regional breeding group was established at Taronga and Melbourne Zoos, the herd has increased in size by 50 percent.”
“Pak Boon was attended during labour and birth by Dr Thomas Hildebrandt from the Berlin Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research, our Taronga veterinary team led by Dr Larry Vogelnest, and the Elephant keepers under their highly experienced manager, Gary Miller. However the Taronga herd is now quite experienced and managed the process very successfully.”
“Dr Hildebrandt said this was a record-breaking birth in terms of the speed with the calf was nursing within 90 minutes of birth and standing unassisted within three hours.”
The calf born to Pak Boon after a gestation of about 22 months and was sired by the Zoo’s Asian Elephant bull, Gung, making the youngster a half sister to the Zoo’s first calf, Luk Chai, which was born on July 4, 2009.
Pak Boon delivered her calf outside the elephant barn, in the lower paddock of the complex. Keepers were there to help and used a sling to help the infant into the barn.
Mr Kerr said: “Given the massive human pressures being placed on the environment, I sometimes wonder how the world’s wildlife will cope. Yet this CMP for elephants proves human capacity to get things right and make a difference.”
The birth confirms Australasian Zoos’ plans to establish an Asian Elephant herd are well advanced in supporting conservation efforts for these endangered animals. Globally zoos’ scientific and husbandry knowledge of elephants has rapidly expanded in recent years and hundreds of millions of zoo visitors worldwide are being given opportunities to learn about elephants and become directly involved with their conservation.
Australasian zoos are involved in more than a dozen projects for elephants ranging from construction of Thailand’s first elephant veterinary health centre to the provision of elephant DNA to assist with population mapping of wild elephants in South-east Asia.
Pak Boon’s name means ‘morning glory flower’ in Thai. A Thai name for the calf will be chosen in coming weeks to reflect the herd’s Thai cultural origin.