Louisville Zoo makes history with successful elephant birth - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Louisville Zoo makes history with successful elephant birth

(LOUISVILLE) -- Louisville Zoo's 21-year-old African elephant Mikki gave birth to her first calf at 8:45 p.m. on Sunday, March 18. It is the first elephant born in the Zoo's 38-year history.

The calf weighed in at a healthy 285 pounds and measures 37.5 inches tall. He will start gaining about 2 pounds a day.

"He is a spectacular baby!" said Zoo Director John Walczak. "This is a phenomenal event for the Zoo, our community and Mikki. I am excited and proud of our staff and the great job they did. Seeing the birth was a moment of pure joy."

Mikki gave birth after a 22-month gestation period. She became pregnant through artificial insemination June of 2005 with the help of Dr. Dennis Schmitt, professor at Southwest Missouri State University and the leading North American expert in elephant reproductive physiology and veterinary management.

Schmitt arrived at 3:00 in the afternoon Sunday and was present for the birth. Mikki was also attended to by Zoo veterinary and elephant staff. She started labor at 8 p.m. March 18 and the calf was born rear legs first 45 minutes later.

 "Dr. Schmitt told me it was the smoothest elephant delivery he has ever seen," Walczak said.

Immediately after the birth, the veterinary team performed a neonatal exam. The stocky calf is strong and sturdy and has even been heard trumpeting from hundreds of feet away.

"Mikki and calf are doing great, and they are very healthy," said Zoo veterinarian Dr. Roy Burns. "It is heartening to watch Mikki explore and bond with the calf. And over the next few days we will keep a close eye on both her and the baby."

Mikki was carefully monitored and well cared for throughout her entire pregnancy. She regularly participated in power walks and exercises to stay healthy. Ultrasounds and blood draws were frequently scheduled to alert zoo veterinarians to any potential issues.

"After 633 days of extremely hard work, we are very excited to finally see this handsome calf," said Dave Campbell, elephant supervisor. "I feel like a proud grandpa. Mikki has a great disposition, and I know she will be a great mom."

Mikki is the second African elephant this year in North America to give birth. Since April 2003, 12 of the last 14 elephant conceptions have been successful.

"Elephant breeding at accredited zoos provides critical support for elephant conservation. Everyday more and more habitat for wild animals is lost due to pressures from human overpopulation, habitat destruction and poaching. In the past 25 years in the wild, the African elephant population has fallen from 1.6 million to less than 500,000-a decline of more than 100 elephants each day," Walczak said.

Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) elephant breeding program is administered under the auspices of the Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative program of all accredited zoos with elephants. The plan promotes the survival of elephant species into the future, by providing linkages between zoo animal "ambassadors" and the conservation of their wild counterparts in nature.

The Zoo will provide periodic reports on the progress of mother and calf. A public debut will be announced at a later date.

Source: Louisville Zoo