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!_RIC021520151016Taronga Zoo is celebrating the birth of a healthy Asian Elephant calf, the first born there in nearly seven years.

The male calf was born at 1:35 am on May 26 after a pregnancy that lasted approximately 22 months. Labor was short and without problems, with the calf standing five minutes after birth and nursing just before 3:00 am.

!_RIC010020151016Photo Credit: Taronga Zoo

“This is fantastic news for the Australasian breeding program for Asian Elephants, as every birth helps secure a future for this endangered species,” said Cameron Kerr, Taronga CEO and Chair of the Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Elephant Committee.

Pak Boon and her calf are in good health, and the staff is pleased with the calf’s progress so far.  He weighed 286 pounds at birth.

Keepers and vets were on hand for the birth of the calf, supporting mother Pak Boon throughout the quick 35-minute labor. She delivered naturally without any assistance from the team.

“Everything went very smoothly with the birthing process and the calf has spent its first day bonding with mum in the Elephant barn. Pak Boon is doing a tremendous job and the successful birth is a tribute to the hard work of our keepers and veterinary staff,” said Kerr.

Sired by the Zoo’s bull Elephant, Gung, the calf is the second for Pak Boon, who gave birth to a female calf named Tukta in November 2010.

Taronga has now welcomed five Elephant calves since the breeding program began just over 10 years ago, with four calves born in Sydney and one born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

“This precious calf and the other Asian Elephants at Taronga play a vital role as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. They help educate visitors about the decline of wild populations due to habitat destruction and conflict with humans,” said Mr Kerr.

“The successful breeding herd has also been an important catalyst for Taronga’s work with governments and conservation agencies in Asia to turn around the decline of Asian Elephants.”

The surviving population of Asian Elephants is estimated to be between 30,000–50,000 individuals, with numbers continuing to decline due to habitat loss and poaching. Taronga supports wildlife protection units and ranger stations in Thailand and Sumatra to help prevent Elephant poaching. For keepers working closely with Taronga’s Elephant herd, this makes the calf even more precious.

“It’s an exciting time to see Pak Boon and the keeper’s hard work rewarded. It’s very special to have the new addition to the herd, who is also a cute ambassador to raise the plight of Elephants, ” said Elephant Supervisor Gabe Virgona.

Pak Boon and her calf will be given further time to bond behind-the-scenes before making their public debut. Taronga will soon be announcing a name for the calf that reflects the herd’s Thai cultural origin.