Baby Elephant Born at Houston Zoo

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HOUSTON The Houston Zoo celebrated the birth of a big baby boy early Friday. The 385-pound baby elephant was delivered just after 2 a.m. at the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat.

"The elephant keepers have named the calf Duncan," said Houston Zoo Large Mammal Curator Daryl Hoffman. "They like the way it sounds."

No doubt Duncan’s mom, Shanti, was relieved after a pregnancy that lasted nearly 23 months.

"After months of preparation and tender loving care, Shanti’s labor was very brief and the delivery was quick and easy for her," Hoffman said. "The keepers helped the calf to his feet and he was standing on his own within about an hour after his birth."

Duncan started nursing a few hours after his birth and boy was he hungry!

"In the first 90 minutes after his first meal, we saw him nurse more than 15 times. Duncan has a very good appetite," Hoffman said.

Shanti is 23 years old. Thai, the baby’s father, is 48.

Elephant keepers will keep Shanti and Duncan under a 24-hour watch for the next few weeks. The viewing windows in the barn at the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat are temporarily closed to the public. The windows will reopen to the public after the elephant care team has seen signs that Duncan is well-bonded with his mother and is comfortable in his new home.

The eight members of the Houston Zoo’s elephant care team, assisted by the Zoo’s 4 full time veterinarians and veterinary staff and a core group of Zoo volunteers, have been monitoring Shanti closely for the past 11 months. 

More than 50 volunteers and Zoo staff began a seven-day a week overnight birth watch in late-November. They used a state of the art closed-circuit television system to keep an eye on her.

Duncan is Shanti's fourth calf.

Male Asian elephants can weigh up to 13,000 pounds.

Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world and among the most intelligent animals on earth. Unfortunately, Asian elephants are also among the world’s most endangered species.     

At the turn of the 20th century, more than 100,000 Asian elephants roamed their native habitat. Today, only 35,000 remain in the wild—scattered among pockets of Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, Indonesia and Vietnam.