A SECOND rare Asian elephant in a month has been born at Chester Zoo.
The male calf arrived to 20-year-old mum Sithami Hi Way overnight after a 22-month gestation and a 20-minute labour.
Keepers – who stayed up late to monitor the birth live on CCTV – say both mum and calf, who is yet to be named, are doing well.
He has been welcomed by the rest of Chester’s elephant herd, including one-month-old baby Indali Hi Way and one-year-old half-sister Nandita Hi Way.
Andy McKenzie, team manager of elephants at Chester Zoo, said: “Two births in one month is momentous for our Hi Way family herd of Asian elephants. Elephants are hugely sociable animals, so this is an incredible boost to the group.
“Mum Sithami delivered her calf onto deep, soft sand and her instincts immediately took hold as she started to stimulate him, encouraging him to get to his feet by kicking up sand around him. The rest of the herd then excitedly gathered around and within just a few minutes they had helped him up, which was great to see.
“The new baby has joined one-month-old calf Indali, who was born in December. It’s great for each of them to have a playmate, not to mention one-year-old Nandita, who we’re sure will enjoy pushing the youngsters around for a while.”
Asian elephants are highly threatened in the wild and Chester Zoo conservationists are working in India to protect the species from human-wildlife conflict.
Zoo chiefs say the new calf is an invaluable addition to the breeding programme for the endangered species.
Dr Mark Pilgrim, chief executive officer (CEO) at Chester Zoo, added: “Asian elephants are an endangered species, threatened by habitat loss, poaching, disease and direct conflict with humans.
“We hope that news of her arrival will generate more much awareness of these incredible animals and the pressures for survival that they are faced with in the wild.”
Chester Zoo is part of a breeding programme co-ordinated by the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) that is focused on sustaining the elephant population in Europe.
The zoo’s elephant house is open as normal.