Tess, a 29 year old Asian Elephant, delivered a healthy 273 pound female calf Sunday evening at the Houston Zoo’s McNair Asian Elephant Habitat. The calf has been named Tupelo by the Zoo’s Elephant care team. Tupelo’s birth is the second Asian Elephant birth at the Houston Zoo since May 4th, when 19 year old Shanti delivered a male calf, Baylor. Thailand, the Houston Zoo’s 44 year old Asian bull Elephant, is the father of both Baylor and Tupelo.
“This has been an incredible year for the elephant team at the Houston Zoo,” said Large Mammal Curator Daryl Hoffman. “Elephant births in zoos are rare with maybe 3 or 4 a year. To have two births in a span of 4 months speaks volumes about the caliber of care the Houston Zoo provides for the elephants that live here,” added Hoffman.
The Houston Zoo’s elephant care team will keep Tess and Tupelo under a 24-hour watch for the next few weeks. The barn at the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat is temporarily closed to the public, but it will reopen after the elephant care team can see signs that Tupelo and Tess are bonding and comfortable.
The Houston Zoo’s elephant care team, veterinary staff and a core group of Zoo volunteers have been monitoring Tess closely for the past 11 months. The routine intensified over the past 12 weeks, with regular ultrasounds to monitor the baby’s health and blood work to gauge the mother’s progesterone level. Throughout the delivery, Tess was attended by the entire elephant care team and assisted by Zoo veterinarians and Zoo veterinary technicians.
More than 50 volunteers and Zoo staff began a seven-day a week, 24-hour birth watch in August. Utilizing a state-of-the art closed-circuit television system, the birth watch team observed and documented Tess’ behavior. When blood tests indicated Tess’ progesterone level had fallen to a low baseline level, Zoo veterinarians and members of the elephant care team remained at the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat around the clock watching for indications that labor might begin at any moment.