Sydney’s Taronga zoo has announced that a male calf was born at 1.35am last Friday morning, after a pregnancy that lasted approximately 22 months. Labour was short and without problems for mother Pak Boon, with the calf standing on its feet five minutes after birth and began suckling just before 3am.
Taronga CEO and Chair of the Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Elephant Committee, Cameron Kerr says that the birth is an exciting development in the zoo’s conservation program. “This is fantastic news for the Australasian breeding program for Asian Elephants, as every birth helps secure a future for this endangered species.”
Taronga has now welcomed five elephant calves since the breeding program began just over 10 years ago, with four calves born in Sydney and one born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.
Special preparations were put in place for the birth, with Pak Boon and her herd mate Tang Mo and her daughter Tukta being kept together in the elephant barn. Keepers who had closely bonded with Pak Boon were with her throughout the birth and experienced vets were on site, in case any assistance was needed.
“Everything went very smoothly with the birthing process and the calf has spent its first day bonding with mum in the elephant barn,” says Mr Kerr. “Pak Boon is doing a tremendous job and the successful birth is a tribute to the hard work of our keepers and veterinary staff.”
The surviving population of Asian Elephants is estimated to be between 30, 000 – 50, 000 individuals, with numbers continuing to decline to habitat loss and poaching. Taronga supports wildlife protection units and ranger stations in Thailand and Sumatra to help prevent elephant poaching. For keepers working closely with Taronga’s elephant herd, this makes the calf even more precious.
Pak Boon and her calf will be given further time to bond behind the scenes, before they make their official public debut. It is important that the mother and her calf, as well as the calf and other female elephants have time to bond.
Taronga will soon announce a name for the calf that reflects the herd’s Thai cultural origin.