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Fort Worth Zoo officials are thrilled to announce the birth of a 330-pound, 38-inch tall female Asian elephant calf. The calf was born at 3:34 a.m. on July 7. As only the second elephant calf birth in the Fort Worth Zoo’s 104-year history, this birth signifies a tremendous success for the Zoo and a triumph for this endangered species.

Rasha, the Zoo’s 40-year-old Asian elephant, gave birth to her second calf after a 22-month gestation period. Rasha was carefully monitored throughout her entire pregnancy: As part of her prenatal care, she received weekly blood tests to monitor progesterone levels, regular physical examinations and sonograms. The calf’s father is Groucho, the Zoo’s 43-year-old bull who is currently on loan to the Denver Zoo.

“This is a very exciting time for the Fort Worth Zoo and for elephant conservation,” said Michael Fouraker, Zoo executive director. “Since 1986, the Zoo has demonstrated a concerted commitment to keeping the Asian elephant species viable. This calf’s birth is an excellent opportunity to educate the community about the importance of elephant conservation.”

Both mother and calf are in great condition at this time. The initial bonding between an elephant calf and its mother is vital to a successful rearing. As the calf gets acclimated to her surroundings, she will be viewable at various times during the day. Those times will be dictated by her movement.

Since establishing its elephant breeding program in 1986, the Fort Worth Zoo has become an international leader in elephant conservation. Zoo Executive Director Michael Fouraker served as president of the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) for nine years and currently serves on the organization’s board of directors and as president-elect of the board. In addition to the new calf, the Fort Worth Zoo houses five other Asian elephants, three females and two males.

Listed as endangered since 1976, the Asian elephant is threatened by drastic habitat alteration. The species’ ability to reproduce in the wild to offset mortality rates has been questioned as well, due to poaching of male elephants for their ivory tusks. In zoos across North America, reproduction rates are a huge concern, as Asian elephant birth rates are not keeping pace with elephant mortality. The Fort Worth Zoo’s elephant calf is the third Asian elephant born in the U.S. this year.

With the elephant population facing so many risks, it is of great importance for zoos to breed Asian elephants for the future conservation of the species. Fort Worth Zoo staff was ecstatic in 1998 after the birth of the first elephant in the Zoo’s history, a female calf named Bluebonnet. With a second successful birth, the Zoo continues to establish itself as a leader in elephant breeding and conservation.

Name the Baby!
Fort Worth Zoo staff selected six names for the baby elephant from which the public may choose:

  • Belle (short for Bluebell) – The bluebell is a wildflower found throughout Texas; symbolizes humility and gratitude
  • Maggie (short for Magnolia) – Symbolizes sweetness, beauty and love of nature
  • Rose – “The Yellow Rose of Texas” is an iconic song of Texas
  • Ruby – One of the four precious stones and July’s birthstone; rubies are laid beneath buildings in Asian countries to secure good fortune for the structure
  • Sage – Purple sage is the official native shrub of Texas
  • Tujuh (too-joo) – Means “seven” in Indonesian; this calf was born in the seventh month on the seventh day of the seventh moon

Voting will take place from July 11 to 25 on the Fort Worth Zoo’s Facebook page and at the Asian elephant exhibit inside the Zoo. The name that receives the most votes will be the baby elephant’s name. The winning name will be announced July 25 on the Zoo’s website and Facebook page.

Story and photo courtesy of Fort Worth Zoo