On Dec. 6 at 3:09 a.m., the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed the much-anticipated birth of an Asian elephant in the zoo’s Asia Quest region. The calf, whose sex has not yet been determined, appears strong.
The calf is the first elephant born at the Columbus Zoo in almost 10 years and the first to be born at the zoo as a result of artificial insemination. Mother, Phoebe, is a 31-year-old Asian elephant who came to the zoo in January 2002. While Phoebe has had the opportunity to breed with Hank, a 30-year-old male elephant at the Columbus Zoo, the attempts were unsuccessful, and she was also artificially inseminated with sperm from Hank and a male from another zoo. The father of the calf is not yet known and will be determined through a DNA test with results expected in the coming weeks. Artificial insemination enables an elephant to be impregnated at her most fertile time. While still a relatively rare procedure for elephants, attempts to artificially inseminate elephants are becoming more frequent in an effort to bolster the numbers of endangered elephants, whose populations are rapidly declining in their native range.
The calf joins the herd of six Asian elephants in the Asia Quest region: males, Hank and Beco, and females, Phoebe, Connie, Sundara (Sunny) and Rudy. There have been three successful Asian elephant births at the Columbus Zoo throughout the zoo’s history, and all three have been born to Phoebe — this most recent calf, Beco in 2009, and male, Bodhi, who was born in 2004 and now resides at Denver Zoo. Coco, who passed away at the Columbus Zoo in 2011, was the sire of Beco and Bodhi.
To provide Phoebe and her new baby with time to continue developing a strong bond, they will remain in a behind-the-scenes area. The zoo will announce viewing information for guests as it becomes available. Additionally, in conjunction with a donor, the public will have an opportunity to help name the calf. Details will be announced at a later date.
“We are very proud to welcome Phoebe’s calf into the elephant herd here at the Columbus Zoo,” said Columbus Zoo President/CEO Tom Stalf. “Each birth contributes to the global population and sustainability of this endangered species and is one worth celebrating as a sign of hope for the future of these incredible animals.”
Elephants have the longest gestational period of all mammals, lasting approximately 22 months. Over the last several months, Phoebe has participated in regular ultrasounds to monitor the development of the calf through the imaging, as well as blood collections to monitor her hormone levels throughout her pregnancy. Phoebe and the unnamed calf will continue to be monitored around the clock by the zoo’s expert animal care team to ensure they receive the best care possible.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a long-time supporter of several direct elephant conservation initiatives benefitting both African and Asian elephants, including annual donations to the International Elephant Foundation and several research projects and grants over the last 23 years. Many of these research projects have focused on improving human-wildlife coexistence and monitoring elephant populations in their native ranges. Zoo visitors also have the opportunity to learn about elephant conservation and how they can contribute to the sustainability of this endangered species at the Zoo’s Elephant Conservation Station inside the “Vanishing Giants” building located in the Asia Quest region.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™, Asian elephants are listed as endangered in their native range across southern and southeastern Asia and are in decline due to various factors, including habitat loss/degradation and poaching. The World Elephant Day organization estimates that there are less than 40,000 Asian elephants and fewer than 400,000 African elephants remaining worldwide.
For further updates about Phoebe and her calf, be sure to follow the Zoo’s social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.