Baby Elephant Joy 0004 6356

Baby Joy is Houston Zoo’s newest resident. (Photo by Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo)

After a two-year pregnancy, the Houston Zoo’s 26-year-old Asian elephant Shanti gave birth to a 305-pound female at 8:27 p.m. on Wednesday, July 12. The calf, named Joy, began to nurse within three hours.

Video

See Joy in action.

A portion of each zoo admission and membership goes into protecting an estimated 200-250 wild elephants in Asia. Since the Houston Zoo started its work in Borneo in 2007, there has been a doubling of the elephant population on the island. The Houston Zoo also provides funds for elephant conservationist, Nurzhafarina “Farina” Othman and her team in Asia, to put tracking collars on wild elephants. This group uses collars to follow wild elephants, conducting valuable research that aids in protecting the elephants as they travel through the forests. Farina also spends time working with farmers that grow and produce palm oil, offering her guidance in responsible cultivation practices that are wildlife-friendly.

Baby elephants are wobbly when they’re first born – learning to walk with a 300-plus pound frame – so Joy will wear a harness for a few days so the zoo’s elephant team can help her stand steady while she’s nursing.

Shanti gave birth in the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat cow barn under the supervision of her keepers and veterinary staff. She and the calf will spend several days bonding behind the scenes, before they are ready for their public debut. During the bonding period, the elephant team is watching for the pair to share several key moments like communicating with mom and hitting weight goals.

 “Our animal team is thrilled that the birth has gone smoothly,” said Lisa Marie Avendano, vice president of animal operations at the Houston Zoo. “We look forward to continuing to watch Joy and Shanti bond, and introducing her to Houston.”

Fortunately for mom and baby, there’s plenty of room to grow. The Houston Zoo opened an expanded elephant habitat (bull barn and yard) in May, which doubled the entire elephant complex and immerses guests into the lives and culture of Asian elephants.

From the August 2017 issue
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