TOLEDO ZOO

African elephant delivers healthy 200-pound calf

6/5/2011
BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The male elephant calf, not yet a full day old, rubs against the trunk of his mother, Renee, one the Toledo Zoo's two female African elephants.
The male elephant calf, not yet a full day old, rubs against the trunk of his mother, Renee, one the Toledo Zoo's two female African elephants.

Patrons of the Toledo Zoo soon will find a big, new inhabitant — one who will only get bigger.

After 22 months, Renee the African elephant gave birth at 11:28 p.m. Friday to a healthy male calf weighing more than 200 pounds.

The delivery went well and was monitored on video feed by zoo employees. Renee went into labor while no staff members were in the area, and the 32-year-old gave birth before anyone arrived, according to the zoo.

This is the second calf for Renee. Her first offspring, Louie, recently celebrated his 8th birthday.

Beyond the gratification of Renee successfully giving birth, the yet-to-be-named elephant hopefully will spark as much interest in the zoo as Louie did, said Anne Baker, Toledo Zoo executive director.

“We are hoping for a big reaction,” she said.

The zoo will choose three possible names for the calf and allow the community to pick the winner.

“It’s ‘baby elephant’ at this point,” Ms. Baker said.

Renee and the newborn calf will remain off exhibit until zoo staff determine they are healthy, bonded, and comfortable with public viewing. When viewing begins — which could be within a week — hours may be irregular and limited, according to the zoo.

The calf showed early and healthy signs of successful nursing.
The calf showed early and healthy signs of successful nursing.

Louie and Twiggy, a 26-year-old female elephant who arrived at the zoo in February, 2010, will be available for viewing during regular hours.

The newborn calf stood within minutes of birth and started to nurse by 2:30 a.m. Saturday, according to a statement from the zoo. Renee showed “excellent maternal behavior,” and zoo staff will monitor her and the calf around the clock, it said.

The calf was conceived in August, 2009, through artificial insemination. There were two sperm donors, and paternity will be determined at a later date, according to the zoo.

Ms. Baker said it will be about a year before zoo staff feel the calf is “out of the woods,” and both he and his mother will require continued monitoring.

The birth is a hopeful step for African elephant breeding programs. The zoo said female elephants in captivity are growing older while there are fewer bulls of age or capability.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.