The long wait is over. Rose-Tu, an 18-year-old Asian elephant, gave birth to a 300-pound female calf at the Oregon Zoo at 2:17 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 30.
“We’re all delighted at the arrival of Rose-Tu’s new calf,” said Kim Smith, Oregon Zoo director. “The calf is beautiful, healthy, tall and very vigorous. As soon as she hit the ground — before she was even out of the amniotic sac — she was wiggling. And she’s vocalizing loudly. The first time we heard her, the sound was so deep and loud that we thought it was Shine. She’s definitely got a great set of pipes, and it looks like she’s going to be a real pistol.”
Smith said Rose-Tu is doing well after more than 30 hours of labor and more than 21 months of pregnancy, thanks to a daily exercise regimen that has kept her in top shape. Zoo staff and much of the surrounding community had been on baby watch since Nov. 25, when Rose-Tu’s progesterone levels dropped to near zero, indicating labor should begin soon. Rose entered early labor in the afternoon of Nov. 28 andbegan showing signs of active labor around 12 a.m. today.
Immediately following the birth, the zoo’s animal-care staff took the calf aside to clean it and perform a quick veterinary checkup, and they are now working to reintroduce the mother and calf.
“Rose is doing considerably better this time around,” Smith said. “When Samudra was born, it was four days before she would even let him come near her, so we’re much farther along this time. We’re starting to see motherly behavior from Rose, and the calf is already nursing a bit. These are great signs that the mother-calf bond will be a strong one. Our animal-care staff is working hard to help the two along, and things are progressing every minute.”
“Our keepers and veterinary staff have put an extraordinary amount of work and care into helping Rose-Tu bring her baby into the world,” Smith added. “The time spent training and preparing has paid off, and the outcome is exactly the one we’d hoped for: Rose is safe and healthy, and she has a beautiful newborn calf. Now that the baby’s here, we’re all excited to watch her bond with Rose-Tu and take her place in the herd.”
It might still take a little time before the new baby is ready for visitors though.
“The main thing determining that will be the strength of the bond between Rose-Tu and the calf,” said Bob Lee, the zoo’s elephant curator. “Rose should allow the calf to nurse regularly, sleep, play and generally act like a calf without trying to stop it and control its movements. Then we’ll determine whether she’s calm and comfortable with staff around. And finally, we want to make sure the calf has had a chance to bond with the rest of the herd.”
Now that elephant keepers know the calf is a girl, they’ll choose a short list of possible names and the zoo’s elephant fans will have a chance to vote online, the same way they helped name big brother Samudra in 2008. Keep an eye on oregonzoo.org for more information.