DELIGHTED zookeepers are celebrating the birth of a new elephant calf.

The calf, who is yet to be named, was born at Chester Zoo just before midnight on Sunday, ending a pregnancy of about 22 months.

Its sex is currently unknown but both the mother, Asian elephant Sithami, and her newborn are said to be doing well.

It is the second calf for Sithami, 13, who is also mother to Sundara, six.

She was impregnanted by the sperm of Upali, who is 16.

Stephanie Sanderson, head of conservation medicine, said: “Mum and calf are doing very well and we are very excited to see the new arrival.

“Our visitors will be able to see mum and baby later, but in the meantime the new calf is being looked after by mum, sister Sundara and her grandmother Thi.”

Asian elephants usually carry fully developed calves by the 19th month, but the foetus stays in the womb so it can grow to reach its mother to feed.

At birth, calves normally weigh about 220lbs and are suckled for up to two to three years.

Once a female gives birth she usually does not breed again until the first calf is weaned, resulting in a four to five-year interval.

Females stay on with the herd, but mature males are chased away.

Asian elephants are the largest land animals in Asia, primarily found in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, parts of Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam,
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, China, Bhutan and Sumatra.

The species is, however, considered endangered due to habitat loss and poaching, with between 41,410 and 52,345 left in the wild.