The Dallas Zoo welcomed a big new arrival on May 14: a male African Elephant born to Mlilo, an Elephant rescued from drought-stricken Swaziland this spring.
The calf stands about three feet tall, and his tiny trunk is just over a foot long. His ears are light pink, contrasting with his darker gray body. He weighs 175 pounds, which is on the low end of the 150- to 300-pound range for newborn African Elephants. A low birth weight isn’t surprising, given the difficult conditions his mother encountered in Swaziland during his 22-month gestation.
“This birth validates the critical importance of our rescue efforts and why we worked so hard to get these animals to safety as quickly as possible,” said Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of the Dallas Zoo.
The Dallas Zoo collaborated with conservation officials in Swaziland, Africa, and two other accredited U.S. facilities to provide a safe haven for 17 African Elephants. The Elephants had destroyed trees and other vegetation in the managed parks where they lived, making the land uninhabitable for more critically endangered Rhinos. Swaziland managers planned to cull the Elephants in order to focus on Rhino conservation. The zoos’ collaboration to relocate the Elephants was conceived not only to save them, but to support Swaziland’s Rhino conservation efforts.
In a complex process that lasted nearly two years, the Dallas Zoo, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Wichita’s Sedgwick County Zoo applied for permission from the U.S. government to accept the animals. The permit was granted in January after extensive review, and a detailed move was planned for nearly two months. The Elephants were flown to the U.S. aboard a chartered 747 jet, arriving March 11, 2016.
Mlilo (pronounced “ma-LEE-lo”) arrived in Dallas showing signs of a possible pregnancy, but all tests conducted were inconclusive. Regardless, the Dallas Zoo staff was careful with the day-to-day care of Mlilo, creating positive conditions for her to have a successful birth.
“This calf will be an excellent ambassador for his species, helping us teach guests about the grave crisis facing Elephants in Africa, and inspiring them to help protect this majestic species from extinction,” Hudson said.
This is the first birth of an African Elephant calf in the United States in nearly two years.
African Elephants face many threats, ranging from human encroachment on their habitat to extreme poaching, which claims the life of nearly 100 Elephants every day.
See more photos of the calf below.