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28 Sept 2022

UK zookeepers ‘delighted’ by the arrival of endangered Asian elephant

UK zookeepers ‘delighted’ by the arrival of endangered Asian elephant

Footage from Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire has captured the first wobbly steps of an endangered Asian elephant.

The yet-to-be-named calf was born to mother Donna, 13, who was surrounded by the other four females in the herd as she delivered her baby on Monday.

Despite initially putting keepers on alert due to taking her time to feed from mum, the calf appears to have already inherited her mother’s “determined personality” and followed Donna around until she was able to properly latch on and enjoy her first taste of milk – with keepers describing the pint-sized elephant as “milk-drunk” afterwards.

Deputy team leader of elephants Mark Howes said: “To say we’re delighted by the arrival of this calf is just a huge understatement – it’s a massive success for Donna, for the herd at Whipsnade Zoo, and for elephant conservation full stop.”

“This little infant is a really important addition to the European-wide endangered species breeding programme for Asian elephants.

“We were able to watch the birth via our hidden cameras, and it was amazing to see grandmother Kaylee step in to show Donna how to break the amniotic sac that the baby was born in and move the rest of the herd out of the way to allow the little one to stand up for the first time.

“The third in a matriarchal family line here at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, she’ll grow up being nurtured and learning from her mum Donna and grandmother Kaylee, as well as her ‘aunts’ and ‘cousins’ in the herd – and we’re so excited to see her personality develop as she grows.”

Asian elephants are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), there are fewer than 52,000 Asian elephants left in the wild and their habitat is restricted to just 15% of their original range, with fewer than 100 wild elephants in Vietman, an estimated 250 in Vietman and less than 250 wild Asian elephants in China.

Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants and have proportionally smaller ears, a generally dark grey to brown colour and often feature pink or yellow marks on their face, ears and trunk.

Mr Howes said: “Here at ZSL, the conservation charity which runs Whipsnade Zoo, we’re one of the few conservation organisations working around the world to protect all three species of elephants – Asian elephants, African elephants and African forest elephants.

“Our herd play an active role in our conservation work, from helping us to develop new technologies to educating our visitors.”

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s Centre for Elephant Care, home to Donna and her new calf, will be open to all visitors from Wednesday.

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