Miracle elephant comes back from the dead

Yesterday the death of a baby Asian elephant at Taronga Zoo left us feeling decidedly flat. Elephants have an onerously long gestation period of somewhere between 600 and 660 days…
By Natsumi Penberthy November 7, 2013 Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Yesterday the death of a baby Asian elephant at Taronga Zoo left us feeling decidedly flat. Elephants have an onerously long gestation period of somewhere between 600 and 660 days, the longest pregnancy in the world, so we know that each infrequent little blighter is a long-awaited and precious bundle.

Today, The Sydney Morning Herald reported a subsonic “rumble” of grief from mother, Porntip when, after a week of labour, the baby’s heart seemed to have stopped. It was even suggested that the dead calf might stay within Porntip for up to a year.

“A low subsonic rumble, entirely inaudible to human ears, drifted out across Sydney Harbour, heralding the tragic news… No one quite knows the emotions it contained,” reported the newspaper. “Amazingly, the group of six elephants would have heard the baby’s heartbeat stop – even though it was still inside its mother.”

Much better news arrived over coffee this morning – the experts had spoken just a little too soon. The unexpected arrival of a critically ill but living baby boy had happened at 3.27 am. Here at AG, we scurried cheerfully back to our desks and waited patiently for more news.

In a statement today Taronga’s senior vet Dr Larry Vogelnest said: “The calf has already had some contact with the other elephants in the herd, touching trunks with the older females and also the zoo’s first calf, Luk Chai — an eight-month old male. The others are very excited and curious, reaching out to him with their trunks whenever he gets close.”

Larry added that: “Porntip is already showing signs of being an excellent mother, trying to help him suckle although he hasn’t quite managed to suckle yet. She’s in good health and has been getting to know her calf, gently touching the young animal with her trunk.”

The experts reported that the calf began taking his first steps mid-morning and is moving around the birthing pen in the Elephant Barn. There is a critical first 24-hour period, so the AG office will be waiting for more news come coffee-time tomorrow. He’s certainly a little Aussie battler, so stay tuned.