Oregon Zoo elephant gives birth to baby boy

Oregon Zoo elephant gives birth to baby boy »Play Video

This is a press release courtesy of the Oregon Zoo

Rose-Tu, a 14-year-old Asian elephant and first-time mother, gave birth to a 286-pound, male calf at the Oregon Zoo at 3:56 p.m.
on Aug 23. The first-time mother seemed confused during the birth and showed aggression to the calf. Veterinarians and keeper staff quickly intervened, but reintroduction efforts are now underway.

"The baby is calling to his mom and she's calling back," said Mike Keele, the zoo's deputy director and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' species survival plan coordinator for Asian elephants. "Our veterinarians have examined the calf to see if he sustained any injuries, however from the behavioral signs we've seen thus far, we're very hopeful."

Keele believes that because Rose-Tu had never seen a birth before, she became confused when the baby was born.

"After several failed but energetic attempts, the calf finally stood up and took his first few steps," said Keele. "He has a good suckle response and took water from a keeper's finger within the first hour after birth," he added.

Rose-Tu is doing well after more than 31 hours of labor, thanks to a daily exercise regimen that has kept her in top shape.

Keele said that Rose-Tu began showing signs of oncoming labor at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 22. Her progesterone levels had dropped to near zero three days before, a sign that labor had begun.

Rose-Tu, born Aug. 31, 1994, was the most recent elephant born at the zoo. Rose-Tu is a popular elephant within the herd and with her keepers. She is always looking to tease her herd mates and shares a strong friendship with Chendra, who is nearly the same age. Rose-Tu is the second smallest elephant in the herd, weighing about 7,600 pounds. She conceived in late 2006.

The Oregon Zoo has a renowned breeding program for endangered Asian elephants.  More than 25 elephants have been born at the zoo, beginning with Packy in 1962.

As the infant grows older, father Tusko - a 13,500-pound, 36-year-old Asian elephant - will   be introduced and allowed to interact with him, as well. Tusko arrived at the zoo in June 2005 on a breeding loan. He has successfully sired three calves in the past -- two while living in Canada and one in California.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for Asian elephants recommended that Rose-Tu be bred with Tusko. The AZA, of which the Oregon Zoo is an accredited member, strives to maintain a sustainable population of the endangered elephants in North America. Currently, birth rates are lower than necessary to do so. With few bulls and low birth rates -- combined with an aging female population -- the North American elephant population is at of risk becoming extinct.

In the late 1990s, scientists warned zoos that unless a reproductive management program was undertaken, North America was in danger of not sustaining a viable elephant population. Statistics indicate that if females do not become pregnant by the age of 25, their ability to reproduce is severely diminished.

An endangered species, Asian elephants are represented by an estimated 38,000 to 51,000 individuals living in fragmented populations in the wild. Agriculture, deforestation and conflict with humans pose a constant threat to wild Asian elephants.

The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission to inspire the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Washington's pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot butterflies, western pond turtles, Oregon spotted frogs and Kincaid's lupine. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.

The zoo opens at 8 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Zoo visitors are encouraged to ride MAX or take TriMet bus No. 63. Visitors who take the bus or MAX receive $1 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.

General admission is $9.75 (12-64), seniors $8.25 (65+), children $6.75 (3-11), and infants 2 and under are free; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo's Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $2 per car is also required. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.