Indianapolis Zoo welcomes new resident

The first steps for an African elephant calf born late Thursday at the Indianapolis Zoo come at a time when elephants are increasingly being threatened in the wild.

The female calf was born at 11:48pm on Thursday, June 28, and is the third for mother Ivory and the sixth elephant birth at the Indianapolis Zoo. All Indianapolis Zoo elephant births have been the result of artificial insemination (AI) with a technique pioneered at the Indianapolis Zoo.

She weighed in at 244 pounds and was up on her feet in minutes, a positive early sign. Keepers say the calf is healthy and strong, and almost immediately after birth was curiously feeling around with her trunk.

The birth capped a 22-month pregnancy for Ivory, a 30-year-old African elephant who came to the Zoo in 1984.

"I cannot think of many things in this world that are as engaging as an African elephant calf," said Indianapolis Zoo President and CEO Michael Crowther. "This birth occurs at a time when African elephants in the wild are under severe pressure from poaching. This calf, born 10,000 miles away from Africa, will serve as an ambassador to her species, encouraging people to get involved in programs like Save the Elephants and the Tarangire Elephant Project that work to protect elephants in the wild."

Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants and 2010 Indianapolis Prize winner, reports that almost 24 tons of illegally harvested ivory were seized in 2011, the largest haul since records began in 1990 and more than twice the amount in 2010. That represents 2,000 slaughtered elephants.

The Indianapolis Zoo's most recent contribution to conservation in Africa came in February with the contribution of $90,000 that resulted from Super Bowl parking.

The calf joins a herd of seven other African elephants at the Indianapolis Zoo and is the second elephant calf born at the Zoo in the past 12 months. Kalina was born July 20, 2011, the record setting third calf born to mother Kubwa.

With this birth, Ivory now joins Kubwa as the only two African elephants to have successfully given birth three times using AI. In March and August 2000, the two mothers first made headlines around the world when they gave birth to the first two elephants calves successfully conceived through AI.

Ivory's first calf, Ajani, was born on August 2, 2000 and weighed 252 pounds. He now resides at the Birmingham Zoo. Ivory's second calf, Zahara, was born August 31, 2006, weighing 260 pounds and still lives at the Indianapolis Zoo.

The zoo is asking for public help in naming the elephant. You can submit a name on the Indianapolis Zoo Facebook page. The staff will select a few names as finalists.