A baby elephant has been born at Chester Zoo.
The female youngster arrived on Thursday, August 20 at 2.38pm and the zoo tweeted today:
The calf was born to mum Thi Hi Way adding to the zoo's herd of seven Asian elephants, an endangered species.
It is the first born at the zoo since 2013.
The female youngster was on her feet within three minutes of being born was welcomed into the group by mum Thi Hi Way and four other members of the zoo’s Hi Way family of elephants.
Keepers at the zoo say Thi, 34, delivered her latest offspring ‘very smoothly’ following a 22-month gestation.
Thi has had several calves before and, within the zoo’s herd, is also mum to Sithami (18), grandmother to Sundara (11) and Bala (2) and great grandmother to Hari (3).
Team manager of elephants at the zoo Andy Mckenzie said: “We are able to watch the elephants remotely from home on our CCTV cameras so we can track the progress of the labour without disturbing the herd. The birth of a new elephant is a real family occasion and, as the labour progresses, all of the family unit really come together. They all knew that something was going to happen, especially the older elephants that have seen it all before.
“Thi is an experienced mum and the birth went very smoothly indeed.
“As soon as the calf was born onto the soft sand, the family started to lean down to have a look and a sniff and also gave her a gentle kick to stimulate her. Not long after, she was up and standing on her feet.
“A birth in the group is a really positive experience for the animals and they get excited about the process. A lot of elephant behaviour is learnt and so it was great to see the younger individuals being around the birth and learning from the older cows in the family, particularly two-year-old Bala Hi Way who has never been around a birth before.
“We’re really pleased with how the birth went and Thi’s new calf is a great addition to the Hi Way family.”
In February, Chester Zoo sent 12 members of staff to Assam in India to work on a zoo project which is helping protect wild elephants and the people who live with them. The zoo now hopes that their new calf can help raise more awareness of the species – listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - and the threats they are under in the wild.
Curator of mammals Tim Rowlands added: “It’s fantastic to be able to celebrate another elephant birth at the zoo and we hope it inspires people to sit up and take notice of the issues these magnificent animals face in the wild.
“African elephants are hunted for their ivory but Asian elephants, which don’t have such large tusks, are persecuted in other ways. For example, in India, elephants are injured or even killed in conflicts with humans when they walk into villages and damage crops and property, leading to retaliation in force by villagers. Chester Zoo runs a fantastic conservation programme in Assam in northern India, which works hard to put an end to this, helping both villagers and wild elephants to live together harmoniously. When people visit and come and see our new calf they may not realise it, but they’re actually helping fund this work in the wild.”
The zoo’s elephant house is open as normal.
About Asian elephants
- Chester Zoo is home to five members of the Hi Way family – Thi, Sithami, Sundara, Bala and Hari, male Aung
- Bo (dad to the latest calf) and female Maya.
- The new calf is female. The zoo’s elephant team of keepers will soon be choosing a name for the new arrival.
- Asian elephants are native to India and South East Asia.
- The species is listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- They can weigh up to 5000kg.
- The species is threatened by habitat loss due to logging, agricultural and urban development; poaching for ivory and conflict with humans
As their natural habitat is lost, more animals are wandering into farmed areas causing crop damage. Increasing numbers of people have also died as a result of elephant encounters, leading to retaliatory hunting by some communities.