Oklahoma City Zoo welcomes newborn endangered Asian elephant
Asha, an Asian elephant at The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, recently gave birth to the Zoo's eighth Asian elephant.
The Oklahoma City (OKC) Zoo and Botanical Garden announced that one of its Asian elephants, Asha, 26, successfully birthed a male calf named Rama on Thursday, January 20, 2022, at 8:26 pm, inside the Zoo’s elephant barn, Sanctuary Asia.
According to an organizational release, wildlife aficionados worldwide have been awaiting Rama’s arrival since Asha’s pregnancy was announced in 2020. Rama is the fourth calf to be born at OKC Zoo, as well as Asha’s fourth offspring. Rama’s siblings, Achara and Kai, plus Asha’s sister, Chandra, witnessed the delivery take place—a key aspect to this family group connecting with Rama Along with the happy family, OKC Zoo’s Asian elephant herd also includes Kandula, 20; Bamboo, 54; and Chandra, 25.
“With this being Asha’s fourth calf, she has become quite the experienced mother and we’re confident in the excellent care she will provide Rama,” said Rachel Emory, OKC Zoo’s curator of elephants and rhinos, in an organizational release.
“We’re excited to watch Rama grow with his elephant family and become an ambassador for his species. Asian elephants are endangered so the future of these magnificent animals depends on new generations including Rama to help sustain the Asian elephant population,” she expressed.
OKC Zoo's veterinary and elephant caretaker teams were present for the delivery and noted it required no medical intervention. After the birth, a visual newborn exam deemed the calf is in excellent health and even displayed important developmental milestones (eg, standing about 20 minutes post-delivery and successfully nursing within 2 hours of birth).
During Asha’s nearly 2-year pregnancy, the Zoo's veterinary team performed ultrasounds and hormone level testing. Asha also partook in weekly training sessions to help her plan for the birth and still exercised with the herd. According to the release, on January 18, 2022, OKC staff recognized a significant drop in Asha's progesterone levels. Because this is a sign she might give birth soon, the team went into around-the-clock "baby watch". Two days later, Rama was born.
Asha arrived at the Zoo in 2008 while Rama’s father Rex, 53, arrived at the Zoo in 2011. Since then, the duo became parents to Achara, 7, and Kairavi, 3, and now Rama. The breeding recommendation for Rex and Asha was part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan—a breeding and management program committed to maintaining a genetically healthy Asian elephant population in AZA-accredited zoos.
The OKC Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of Asian elephants and their habitat through its global partnerships. According to the release, Asian elephant populations in the wild have fallen below 40,000, and vital habitat for elephants reduced by 85% in 40 years. Furthermore, Asian elephants are much more susceptible than African elephants to EEHV, a fast-moving virus with a 60% fatality rate.
Guests will be able to see the mother-son duo intermittently throughout the day from inside Sanctuary Asia and if the weather is nice, Asha and Rama will have access to their outside habitat.
OKC Zoo celebrates birth of endangered Asian elephant calf. News release. Oklahoma City Zoo. January 21, 2022. Accessed January 25, 2022. https://www.okczoo.org/default.aspx?p=164942&naid=27933