PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Zoo says its Asian elephant Rose-Tu has given birth to a 300-pound female calf.
The zoo said the birth came at 2:17 a.m. Friday, and the youngster is healthy, vigorous and loud.
Or as zoo Director Kim Smith put it: “She’s definitely got a great set of pipes.”
The zoo said the newborn has begun nursing. She won’t go public until Rose-Tu has established a maternal bond, she’s comfortable with staff members and she has a chance to bond with the rest of the herd. A name is to be chosen through an online vote.
The calf is Rose-Tu’s second and the zoo’s 28th, beginning with Packy in 1962.
Rose-Tu became pregnant 21 months ago by Tusko, also the sire of her first-born, a male named Samudra.
OREGON ZOO PRESS RELEASE
The long wait is over. Rose-Tu, an 18-year-old Asian elephant, gave birth to a 300-pound female calf at the Oregon Zoo at 2:17 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 30.
“We’re all delighted at the arrival of Rose-Tu’s new calf,” said Kim Smith, Oregon Zoo director. “The calf is beautiful, healthy, tall and very vigorous. As soon as she hit the ground — beforeshe was even out of the amniotic sac — she was wiggling. And she’s vocalizing loudly. The first time we heard her, the sound was so deep and loud that we thought it was Shine. She’s definitely got a great set of pipes, and it looks like she’s going to be a real pistol.”
Smith said Rose-Tu is doing well after more than 30 hours of labor and more than 21 months of pregnancy, thanks to a daily exercise regimen that has kept her in top shape. Zoo staff and much of the surrounding community had been on baby watch since Nov. 25, when Rose-Tu’s progesterone levels dropped to near zero, indicating labor should begin soon. Rose-Tu entered early labor in the afternoon of Nov. 28 and began showing signs of active labor around midnight last night.
Immediately following the birth, the zoo’s animal-care staff took the calf aside to clean it and perform a quick veterinary checkup, and they are now working to reintroduce the mother and calf.
“Rose is doing considerably better this time around,” Smith said. “When Samudra was born, it was four days before she would even let him come near her, so we’re much farther along this time. We’re starting to see motherly behavior from Rose, and the calf is already nursing a bit. These are great signs that the mother-calf bond will be a strong one. Our animal-care staff is working hard to help the two along, and things are progressing every minute.”
“Our keepers and veterinary staff have put an extraordinary amount of work and care into helping Rose-Tu bring her baby into the world,” Smith added. “The time spent training and preparing has paid off, and the outcome is exactly the one we’d hoped for: Rose is safe and healthy, and she has a beautiful newborn calf. Now that the baby’s here, we’re all excited to watch her bond with Rose-Tu and take her place in the herd.”
It might still take a little time before the new baby is ready for visitors though.
“The main thing determining that will be the strength of the bond between Rose-Tu and the calf,” said Bob Lee, the zoo’s elephant curator. “Rose should allow the calf to nurse regularly, sleep, play and generally act like a calf without trying to stop it and control its movements. Then we’ll determine whether she’s calm and comfortable with staff around. And finally, we want to make sure the calf has had a chance to bond with the rest of the herd.”
Now that elephant keepers know the calf is a girl, they’ll choose a short list of possible names and the zoo’s elephant fans will have a chance to vote online, the same way they helped name big brother Samudra in 2008. Keep an eye on oregonzoo.org for more information.
The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its successful breeding program for Asian elephants, which has now spanned five decades. Counting the new calf, 28 elephants have been born at the zoo, beginning with Packy in 1962. The zoo’s efforts have helped significantly expand understanding of elephant reproduction.
Rose-Tu became pregnant in late February 2011 by Tusko, the 40-year-old bull who also had sired Samudra. Throughout her pregnancy, keepers monitored Rose-Tu’s health and led her through exercises to facilitate a healthy birth.
The elephants at the zoo live in a matriarchal herd, as elephants do in the wild. The Oregon Zoo is poised to begin construction in 2013 on Elephant Lands, an expansion of the elephant habitat that will quadruple the elephants’ space and dramatically enhance their experiences and daily routines.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for Asian elephants recommended that Rose-Tu be bred with Tusko. The AZA, of which the Oregon Zoo is an accredited member, strives to maintain a sustainable population of the endangered elephants in North America. Currently, birth rates are lower than necessary to do so. With few bulls and low birth rates — combined with an aging female population — the North American elephant population is at of risk becoming extinct.
The Oregon Zoo’s central role in the AZA’s Species Survival Plan for Asian elephants has earned it an international reputation for its research and commitment to helping this endangered species. Asian elephants are considered highly endangered in their range countries, threatened by habitat loss and conflict with humans. Perhaps fewer than 40,000 elephants remain in fragmented populations from India to Borneo.
Through the International Elephant Foundation, the Oregon Zoo supports conservation projects that preserve elephant range habitat and reduce conflict with humans.
The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans and giant pandas. The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.