African elephants are an endangered species, threatened in their natural habitat by illegal poaching and habitat loss.
So every new birth is a huge, welcome step towards keeping these beautiful animals from extinction. Several accredited zoos participate in breeding plans to ensure the conservation of the species.
And after years of waiting, one zoo now has plenty to celebrate: two elephant calves have been born, both in the same month!
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium celebrated the miraculous milestone. We previously reported on the first birth: On January 7, the zoo announced that 18-year-old female elephant Kiki gave birth to her calf, the first elephant born in the zoo’s history.
After the historic birth, the zoo announced that the calf was “doing well” and was being cared for by her mother.
In the weeks since, the baby has been growing up fast: on January 30, the zoo announced she weighed 187 pounds.
She also got a name: Eugenia, which means “noble” or “well-born.” Eugenia has taken her place in the elephant herd, and keeps close to her mom’s side.
“Kiki is doing a fantastic job helping the calf move through the spaces, supporting her when she nurses, and standing over her for as long as she needs to rest,” the zoo wrote on Facebook.
If the arrival of the zoo’s first-ever elephant calf wasn’t exciting enough, the Henry Doorly Zoo got double the good news just weeks later with the birth of their second elephant calf.
Claire, a 13-year-old African elephant, gave birth to a male calf on January 30, the zoo announced in a press release. Both mom and baby are “doing well.”
“Animal Care Staff implemented a 24-hour watch for Claire over the weekend when they noticed a significant and continual drop in her progesterone levels,” the zoo explained. “This and other behavior changes were also indications that labor would take place in the next few days.”
The new calf is Eugenia’s “half-brother.” Callee, a 21-year-old elephant who arrived at the zoo in 2019, is the father of both calves.
The fact that both baby elephants, the first and second ever in the zoo’s history, arrived just weeks apart is remarkable. African elephants have the longest gestation period of any living mammal, averaging about 22 months. They also typically give birth one calf at a time — twins are extremely rare — and take long gaps between calves, often 4-5 years.
According to BBC Earth, this lengthy birthing process has contributed to the African elephant’s endangered status, making zoological breeding programs like this important in their conservation.
The Henry Doorly Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and in addition to caring for African elephants in captivity they have been part of elephant protection projects like the 96 Elephants Campaign, which encourages an increased crackdown on the illegal ivory trade, citing that 96 elephants a day are killed for their ivory.
While the arrival of the baby elephants has certainly garnered a lot of buzz and attention, the zoo says that fans will have to wait a bit to see the new arrivals in-person.
Their Elephant Family Quarters is currently closed to allow the calves and their mothers some private time, and “allow Animal Care Staff time to observe bonding, maternal behaviors and nursing.”
But they added that the elephants will be available for viewing via a reserved timed ticket once the area reopens in the future.
We’re sure that these beautiful baby elephants will delight visitors to the zoo, and hopefully inspire them to care about this species’ survival.
Congrats to the Henry Doorly Zoo on the birth of both of these beautiful newborn elephants. This is a big step towards protecting this majestic species from extinction, and we can’t wait to see these elephants grow up!
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