A healthy Asian elephant calf has been born at Chester Zoo after a 22-month gestation - with the birth caught on CCTV!
Apparently, elephant experts monitored the event remotely, with the labour lasting approximately 20 minutes and mum-to-be Sundara Hi surrounded by the other elephants in the herd.
Asian elephants are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, threatened by habitat loss, poaching a deadly herpes virus called elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) and conflict between humans and wildlife.
Assistant team manager of elephants Katie Morrisson said: “The excitement levels really build when a calf is due and, as soon as Sundara went into labour, it was obvious to the other herd members that something special was about to take place.
“[Sundara] immediately began to stimulate her calf with a number of gentle kicks to encourage her up off the ground as quickly as possible, and she was on her feet and suckling within minutes, which was wonderful to see. So far both mum and calf are doing ever so well indeed.”
The rest of the family herd is made up of one-year-old half-brother Anjan (who witnessed his very first birth!) and three-year-old sister Indali.
Conservationists working at the zoo have been working to combat the threats facing elephants and it’s also part of a breeding programme put together by the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums focused on sustaining Europe’s elephant population.
Director of animal and plant collections Mike Jordan explained that two areas of particular focus for the zoo include human-wildlife conflict in Assam in India, where conservationists are working to prevent deaths of elephants and the people living alongside them, helping them to co-exist.
The zoo is also searching for a viable vaccine to help get rid of the EEHV disease - and “huge progress” has been made, with researchers hopeful that there will soon be one less threat faced by Asian elephants.
This isn’t the only new arrival at the zoo, however, with two rare hornbill chicks recently hatching, as well. Their parents were rescued from a fire at the zoo in December 2018 so the arrival of the chicks is even more special!
Curator of birds Andrew Owen explained just how rare it is to see inside the nest of a rhinoceros hornbill, because the incubation and rearing of the chicks all happens inside a sealed cavity high up in a tree. He described being able to see the chicks in the nest and chart their progress to fledgling as “incredibly special”.
If you’re looking for a fun day out over the next few weeks, perhaps a trip to Chester Zoo to see the new arrivals could be in order!
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