VIDEO: Asian elephant born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

By Jared Richards 3 November 2016
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A healthy male Asian elephant was born yesterday afternoon, the first of its kind at the Dubbo zoo.

AN ASIAN ELEPHANT CALF was born yesterday at 3.50pm at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, NSW. 

The yet-unnamed male is the first Asian elephant (Elephas Maximus) to be born at the Dubbo zoo and the fourth calf of the 10-year-long breeding program between Western Plains and Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.

The calf began standing five minutes after birth, and shortly after began walking. (Photo courtesty Taronga Western Plains Zoo)

In the above video, the calf can be seen playing and nursing from its mother Thong Dee, as well as his auntie, Porntip. The calf was concieved at Taronga Zoo with Gung – Thong Dee was moved to Dubbo shortly after in 2015. Asian elephant gestation periods are 22 months long, so the zoo has had time to prepare for the calf. 

The newborn Asian elephant calf with her mother Thong Dee and auntie Porntip. (Photo courtesy Taronga Western Plains Zoo)

“Both mother and calf are doing really, really well,” said Western Plains Zoo’s elephant supervisor Greg Sullivan. “Within the first five minutes the calf was standing, and within an hour and a half the calf began taking its first nurse. Since then, it’s been attended by both its mother and aunty, Porntip, and they’re all bonding extremely well.”

That’s not to suggest Thong Dee’s mothering skills were ever under question – in 2009, she gave birth to Australia’s first elephant calf Luk Chai, the Zoo program’s first sign of success.

The three bond in private in the elephant barn away from the public. (Photo courtesy Taronga Western Plains Zoo)

Asian elephants are native to South-East Asia, where they face extreme loss of habitat due to development. The species is consdiered engandered, with wild and captive population numbers estimated at 34,000. The Taronga breeding program is part of a larger conservation effort between Australian zoos and South-East Asian conservationists.

Thong Dee, Porntip and the calf will take some time away from the public eye in the elephant barn to bond in private, though Sullivan hopes they’ll be back in the main enclosure next week.

In the meantime, try and come up with a good elephant pun – the zoo will soon open their public naming competition.