11 March 2010

Miracle baby... elephant

Just three days ago, zookeepers at Sydney's Taronga Zoo were mourning the apparent death of a baby elephant (in utero).

Taronga staff were greatly saddened today when it was confirmed that the Zoo’s expected second Asian Elephant calf has not survived a difficult labour.

Taronga’s Director, Cameron Kerr, said: “Keepers and veterinarians became aware in the early hours that despite round-the-clock care, the calf has not survived the labour. They’re now focussing on the next steps to support the mother, Porntip.

“Although we all knew that first deliveries are successful in only 50 percent of elephant births, everyone at the Zoo was hoping that our second birth would be successful.”

“Even though they knew the risks, the elephant keepers and veterinarians have been very distressed by the outcome. Their first thoughts are now for Porntip as they work together to support her.”

Miraculously, yesterday the zoo announced the live birth of the elephant calf

“Advice from world elephant reproduction expert, Dr Thomas Hildebrandt of the Berlin Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Health is that such an outcome after a protracted labour has never been seen before. He said the birth will completely re-write the elephant birth text books.”

Dr Vogelnest said: “The early indications are that the calf survived the protracted labour in a coma. That unconscious state would explain the complete absence of any vital signs during all the checks and examinations we conducted during the labour and led us to believe the calf had not survived.”

Elephant Manager, Gary Miller, said: “When the keepers learned the calf had survived this morning, the looks of disbelief on our faces were quite a picture. We couldn’t believe that this could be true.”

More news from today has been encouraging

Taronga Zoo’s newborn male Asian Elephant calf continued to make progress overnight.

His dedicated keepers, who monitored the newborn throughout the night, were delighted that the calf has begun to suckle from his mother, Porntip, unassisted and moving around without help.

This is an encouraging sign after he survived a protracted labour before being delivered alive against the odds yesterday morning at 3.27 am.

You can keep track of the baby elephant's via the zoo's elephant blog.

Photos from Taronga Zoo by Bobby Jo Vial

The elephants at the zoo appear to be very well looked after. They probably have a better life than many of the domesticated elephants in Thailand, with many eking out a living with their mahouts, begging for food in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

95 per cent of elephants in Thailand are domesticated and privately 'owned'; considered to be livestock. There are reports that the elephant population in Thailand now numbers under 300. A hundred years ago, it was estimated to be around 100,000.

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