Taronga is thrilled to announce the birth of the first Asian Elephant calf at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. The male calf was born November 1 to experienced mother, Thong Dee, in a behind-the-scenes paddock.
“This is tremendous news for the Australasian conservation breeding program for Asian Elephants. I’m delighted to report that mother and calf are doing well and veterinarians are happy with the calf’s progress at this early stage,” said NSW Environment Minister, Mark Speakman.
The calf was standing on his own within 30 minutes of being born and began suckling within hours.
“Thong Dee is doing a magnificent job and the successful birth is a tribute to the hard work of our keepers and veterinary staff. It’s a milestone achievement in the almost 40 year history of our zoo and we couldn’t be happier. Every birth is important as it helps to secure a future for this endangered species,” said Zoo Director, Matthew Fuller.
The calf was sired by Taronga’s bull, Gung, in Sydney prior to Thong Dee moving to Dubbo with three other Elephants in 2015. The calf is the second for Thong Dee, who gave birth to Australia’s first Elephant calf, Luk Chai, in 2009.
Keepers and vets were on hand throughout the labor and birth of the calf.
“Everything went very smoothly with the birthing process. Thong Dee and the calf are in good health and spending time together in the Elephant barn. We have seen the calf suckling and we’re really pleased with the maternal behaviors we’re observing,” said Elephant Supervisor, Glenn Sullivan.
Coincidentally, the birth occurred with both the 10th anniversary of the Elephant herd’s arrival in Australia from Thailand in 2006 and the sixth birthday of Taronga’s third Elephant calf, Tukta.
Taronga has now welcomed four Elephant calves, across both Zoos, since the breeding program commenced 10 years ago (with three calves born in Sydney).
This successful breeding herd has been an important catalyst for Taronga’s work in the field with governments and conservation agencies in Asia to turn around the decline of Asian Elephants. Taronga also funds wildlife protection units and ranger stations in Thailand and Sumatra to help suppress elephant poaching.
Mother and calf will be given further time to bond behind-the-scenes before making their public debut. The Zoo will soon be announcing a competition to help choose a name for the calf.
The Asian or Asiatic Elephant (Elephas maximus) is the only living species of the genus Elephas and is distributed in Southeast Asia from India in the west to Borneo in the east. Three subspecies are recognized: E. m. maximus from Sri Lanka, the E. m. indicus from mainland Asia, and E. m. sumatranus from the island of Sumatra. They are the largest living land animals in Asia.
Since 1986, E. maximus has been listed as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years. The species is primarily threatened by degradation, fragmentation and loss of habitat, and poaching.