Wednesday 31 March 2004
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park celebrates its first Asian elephant birth
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park's new born Asian elephant calf will be making her first public appearance today, Tuesday 30th March. The female calf, born on Tuesday 16th March to 22 year old mother, Kaylee, weighed in at a whopping 149kg on arrival and will be an important addition to the breeding programme for this endangered species.
The calf is about 99 centimetres tall and has a fluffy layer of hair all her over body. She was standing about 10 minutes after birth. The calf is already proving to be a real character; she calls very loudly to mum when she's hungry and enjoys playing around with her doting aunt Lucha.
After enduring a pregnancy of 21 months and a labour of three hours, Kaylee is proving to be an excellent mother and has been keeping a protective eye on her lively youngster as she meets the rest of the female elephants at Whipsnade.
The calf's father, Emmett , was brought over from America in November 1997, to become the breeding male at Whipsnade, while already taking part in the international breeding programme; his semen has been used in artificial insemination of other female elephants around the world.
The calf has been busy exploring but has not yet gained full control of her trunk which may take up to three months! The baby elephant is suckling from Kaylee and will continue to do so for about a year. By the time she is nine months old, 40% of her diet will be hay and vegetables.
Lee Sambrook, Whipsnade Wild Animal Park's Senior Elephant Keeper said, "After such a long pregnancy, we are all very excited about the birth. Both mother and calf are doing well and we are delighted that the calf is going from strength to strength. The rest of the herd are all looking forward to meeting the new addition to the family."
Kaylees' pregnancy was carefully monitored throughout the 21 months, by one of the world's top elephant reproduction experts, Dr Thomas Hildebrandt, by scanning the elephant at regular intervals and also assisting in the delivery of the calf. The research carried out by Dr Hildebrandt has not only been crucial in helping staff at Whipsnade deliver the healthy calf, but he will also use the knowledge gained to developed best practice for international elephant reproduction.
The keepers not only worked with an international expert, but scientists at ZSL also worked to confirm the pregnancy by testing hormone levels. This was done by collecting blood and urine samples and assessing whether the elephant was pregnant and also predicting the due date for delivery. It is hoped that this research will be used in field projects with wild populations.
Whipsnade, in conjunction with other European Zoos, is working to ensure the long-term survival of elephants, by providing 'back up' populations and valuable research data. The situation for Asian elephants in the wild is now so precarious that, if the present rate of decline continues, they are facing extinction of a sustainable population within 30 years.
"Elephant populations have been declining steadily due to poaching and habitat destruction, and this little calf will eventually become an important part the international breeding programme for Asian elephants." said Chris West, Zoological Director, ZSL.
For further information please contact: Jacqueline Ray on 020 7449 6236 or email Jacqueline.email@example.com
Notes to editors
- Calf is yet to be named.
- The elephant paddock at Whipsnade covers an area of over seven acres and comprises of five linked outside areas including a large grass paddock as well as two separate houses. Additional facilities include two pools, mud wallows and dust baths, as well as rubbing posts, shades for summer and high level feeders.
- Whipsnade has five female and one male elephant
- Diet: hay, fruit, twigs, small branches, bark & roots
- Trunks are very muscular (having over 60,000 muscles) and are made up of the nose and upper lip.
- The tusks are modified incisor teeth and in female Asian elephants they remain small
- The Asian elephants world wide population stands at between 37,000-57,000
- The most obvious difference between African and Asian elephants is the size of the ears. Asian elephants have smaller bodies and much smaller ears. The end of the trunk ends in one finger-like projection instead of two, like the African elephant. They also have 2 domes on their forehead and the end of the trunk as one finger-like projection present as opposed to two in the African
- Elephants can't jump
- Average birth weight of captive Asian Calf is 91 kg
- Baby elephants are usually dependent on mother's milk for at least three years, although they can be weaned at two years of age. The mother's milk is highly nutritious but has low fat content (0.63%-6.2%). By the time a calf is nine months old, 40% of its diet is vegetation. The calf learns how and what to eat by watching the older elephants
- Females give birth within the family group and other females often called 'aunties', but the correct term is allo-mother. These helpers play an important role by playing with and watching out for the new baby, allowing the mother time to rest and eat, which is important for lactation (milk production)
- The calf will also eat small amounts of older animal's dung which helps them acquire necessary microbes to aid digestion
- The elephant calf can use other senses to learn about its environment like, chemical and tactile information received through its trunk
- It takes time, however, to acquire trunk coordination. At first the calf may only be able to wave it around in the air, suck on it or trip over it, however within a week the calf has usually gained enough control to try picking up and carrying small objects and food
- You can adopt the Whipsnade elephant calf for £45
— ENDS —