The Saint Louis Zoo announced the birth of a female Asian elephant on June 24, 2011, to mom Rani, who is 15 years old.
"Mother and baby are bonding very well," says Curator of Mammals Martha Fischer. "The baby appears healthy and is already walking around." The elephant care staff hasn't yet confirmed the weight or height, because Rani is being very protective of her newborn.
This is Rani's second baby and the third for Raja, the baby's father. Raja was the first elephant ever born at the Saint Louis Zoo. Now, at age 18, he has his own family, with daughter Maliha, born on August 2, 2006, and Rani's first daughter, Jade, born February 25, 2007.
"The River's Edge staff has been busy preparing for this particular baby for the past two years, says Fischer. "It's so rewarding to have made it to this day. We are all just overjoyed to have the baby with us and welcome a new member to our family."
Asian Elephants are critically endangered.
"There's no question that the Asian elephant is facing extinction," said Dr. Jeffrey P. Bonner, Dana Brown President & CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo. "It's estimated there are only 35,000-50,000 left in the wild. Because Asian elephants are so endangered, the birth of this elephant is important to the conservation work we do with other North American zoos," Bonner added, "Together AZA-accredited zoos cooperatively manage the breeding of Asian elephants to maintain healthy populations that are as genetically diverse and as demographically stable as possible."