Late on Friday night, April 26, Ellie, the Saint Louis Zoo's 42-year-old Asian Elephant, gave birth to a baby girl. The zoo's veterinarians and elephant caretakers were in attenance of the birth and will continue to monitor the baby's health. The calf is about 38 inches tall and weighs 251 pounds. Both Mom and baby spent the night quietly bonding and are doing well.
For the past two months, zoo staff has been on a 24-hour pregnancy watch. They monitored Ellie's progress with an ultrasound exam and tracked her progesterone levels every day. When Ellie's progesterone dropped five days ago, they knew she would deliver within 1-13 days. Martha Fischer, Curator of Mammals, said, "The baby appears healthy and is already walking around well. As an experienced mother and grandmother, Ellie was very nurturing, caring for her newborn from the very beginning. She did a great job."
The Saint Louis Zoo has been actively involved with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan for Asian Elephants. Dr. Jeffrey P. Bonner, Dana Brown President & CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo said, "There are only between 35,000 and 50,000 Asian Elephants left in the wild, and they are facing extinction. Given the shrinking population of Asian Elephants, the Saint Louis Zoo shares a common vision with other professional elephant conservation organizations and with our elephant care colleagues—a vision that includes elephants in the world's future forever, both in zoos and in the wild."
The Zoo will soon announce a naming poll through a news release, social media and its website.
Read more about the Elephant family and the Zoo's conservation program below the fold:
"The Zoo's Elephant care team has been busy preparing for this baby for the past two years," Fischer continued. "It's so rewarding to have made it to this day. In addition, we are all just overjoyed to have her with us to help us continue to build a matriarchal herd. Elephants form deep family bonds and live in tight matriarchal family groups of related females so the addition of a fourth female youngster further cements these strong ties and mirrors the natural family structure for Asian elephants found in the wild."
In addition to participating in the AZA Species Survival Plan, the Zoo supports the welfare and conservation of Asian Elephants in Sumatra and other countries in Asia through the International Elephant Foundation, as well as the conservation of African Elephants in Kenya.
Also, with Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) a common health issue for elephants both in the care of zoos and in the wild, the Saint Louis Zoo has been instrumental in pursuing the latest EEHV detection and testing protocols. For several years, the Zoo has joined other North American elephant care facilities in actively supporting an EEHV research effort. The International Elephant Foundation is facilitating this study to find a cure.
"Because Asian Elephants are so endangered in the wild, this birth is important to the conservation work we do with other North American zoos," said Dr. Bonner. "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.