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The staff at Belgium’s Planckendael Animal Park received an amazing Christmas present: a female Asian Elephant was born on Christmas Day, December 25.

Female Elephant May Tagu gave birth surrounded all the females in the zoo’s Elephant herd, including her sister, Kai-Mook. Planckendael staff called this the “best conceivable delivery scenario.”

26169455_1828971157145113_6027206929366815055_nPhoto Credit: Planckendael

In Elephant society, the birth of a baby generates great excitement. Female herd members gather around the mother during childbirth and welcome the newborn by sniffing and touching the baby with their trunks. This gathering allows young females to witness childbirth and better prepare them for their future roles as mothers.

May Tagu gave birth after being pregnant for 629 days – more than 20 months. May Tagu’s newborn stood about 25 minutes after birth and held her tiny trunk in the air.

Mom and baby appear healthy, and May Tagu is a caring mother. The zoo staff are thrilled with the successful birth because May Tagu’s first baby, born about two years ago, died of liver failure shortly after birth.

The newborn’s father is Chang, who recently moved to the zoo in Copenhagen. Chang is also the father of two more baby Elephants expected to be born in the coming months at Planckendael. May Tagu’s sister, Kai-Mook, is pregnant, and Phyo Phyo, the mother of May Tagu and Kai-Mook, is also expecting a baby.

All of these young Elephants will be valuable additions to the European breeding program for this Endangered species. The wild Asian Elephant population is threatened by the degradation and fragmentation of habitat, which leads to more frequent conflicts between Elephants and people. Elephants are also illegally killed for their ivory tusks.