As part of the World Elephant Day celebration on Aug. 11, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced that it’s expecting an Asian elephant birth in the coming months. The calf will be the first elephant born at the zoo in almost 10 years.
Expectant mother, Phoebe, is a 31 year old Asian elephant. Phoebe came to the Columbus Zoo in January 2002 and now resides in central Ohio alongside the other five Asian elephants in the Asia Quest region – males Hank and Beco, and females Connie, Sunny and Rudy. This calf will be Phoebe’s third calf born at the Columbus Zoo and her fourth calf overall. Phoebe was artificially inseminated with sperm from Hank as well as a male from another zoo and had the opportunity to breed naturally with Hank, so the father of the calf is not yet known and will be determined via a DNA test after the birth.
Phoebe is in the third trimester of her pregnancy and will likely give birth to her calf in mid to late December. Phoebe has been voluntarily participating in bi-monthly ultrasounds for several months to monitor the development of the calf through the imaging. Ultrasounds are not used to determine the sex of elephant calves while in the womb, so the sex of the calf will not be known until it is born. The zoo’s animal care staff will continue to monitor Phoebe closely and she will be tended to 24 hours a day during the later stages of her pregnancy.
Just two Asian elephants have been born at the Columbus Zoo throughout the zoo’s history – Beco in 2009 and Bodhi, who now resides at the Denver Zoo, born in 2004. Elephants typically have a gestation period of about 22 months. At birth, newborn elephant calves can be anywhere from 200 to 300 pounds and stand up to approximately 3 feet tall.
“All of us at the Columbus Zoo are thrilled to make this exciting announcement about Phoebe’s pregnancy,” said Columbus Zoo President/CEO Tom Stalf. “We are especially proud to contribute another individual to the Asian elephant population, which has been in decline in recent years, in order to protect this species’ future.”
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a long-time supporter of several direct elephant conservation initiatives benefiting 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 alleviating human-wildlife conflict and monitoring elephant populations in their native ranges. The World Elephant Day celebration and upcoming elephant birth at the zoo will continue to help to raise awareness and additional funds for these important conservation efforts.
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 less than 400,000 African elephants remaining worldwide.
For more information about conservation initiatives at the Columbus Zoo, please visit: https://globalimpact.columbuszoo.org/about.
Submitted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.