A moment of triumph was captured on camera at Bedfordshire’s Whipsnade Zoo, with the birth of an endangered Asian elephant calf whose first faltering steps marked a beacon of hope for the species.
Donna, a 13-year-old elephant, welcomed her unnamed newborn on Monday, supported by the four other female elephants from her herd. Initially, the calf raised concern among the zoo staff due to her hesitant approach to feeding.
However, her mother’s persistent character soon shone through in the calf as she pursued Donna until she could latch on and savor her first sip of milk. This event had the keepers jovially dubbing her “milk drunk.”
The calf’s arrival stirred waves of joy among the zoo staff. Mark Howes, Deputy Team Leader of Elephants, said, “The birth of this calf signifies not just a massive achievement for Donna and our herd here at Whipsnade but also a significant victory for elephant conservation.”
This newborn calf is an essential contributor to the European endangered species breeding program for Asian elephants.
The zoo staff monitored the birth via concealed cameras, capturing the moment when Kaylee, the grandmother, guided Donna to rupture the amniotic sac and cleared the area for the baby to stand for the first time.
This calf represents the third generation of a matriarchal lineage at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. Howes shared his anticipation, “We eagerly await seeing her personality blossom as she grows, under the nurturing guidance of her mother, grandmother, ‘aunts,’ and ‘cousins.'”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) labels Asian elephants as endangered.
As reported by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), the wild population of Asian elephants has dwindled to fewer than 52,000, with their natural habitat limited to just 15% of the original range.
Distinctly smaller than their African counterparts, Asian elephants are characterized by their smaller ears and dark grey to brown color, often highlighted with pink or yellow markings on their face, ears, and trunk.
The Whipsnade Zoo, operated by the conservation charity ZSL, plays a key role in worldwide efforts to safeguard all three species of elephants.
“Our herd not only contributes to our conservation initiatives but also serves as an educational ambassador for our visitors,” said Howes.
The Center for Elephant Care at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, the new home for Donna and her calf, will open on Wednesday.
Read more Elephant News.