15 Jun 2015

The female youngster was on her feet within three minutes of being born at 14:38 on Thursday 20 August and was welcomed into the group by mum Thi Hi Way and four other members of the zoo’s Hi Way family of Asian elephants

Our keepers say Thi, 34, delivered her latest offspring ‘very smoothly’ following a 22-month gestation. 

Thi has had several calves before and, within the zoo’s herd, is also mum to Sithami (18), grandmother to Sundara (11) and Bala (2) and great grandmother to Hari (3).

Andy Mckenzie, team manager of elephants at Chester Zoo, said:

We are able to watch the elephants remotely from home on our CCTV cameras so we can track the progress of the labour without disturbing the herd. The birth of a new elephant is a real family occasion and, as the labour progresses, all of the family unit really come together. They all knew that something was going to happen, especially the older elephants that have seen it all before.

Thi is an experienced mum and the birth went very smoothly indeed.

As soon as the calf was born onto the soft sand, the family started to lean down to have a look and a sniff and also gave her a gentle kick to stimulate her. Not long after, she was up and standing on her feet.

A birth in the group is a really positive experience for the animals and they get excited about the process. A lot of elephant behaviour is learnt and so it was great to see the younger individuals being around the birth and learning from the older cows in the family, particularly two-year-old Bala Hi Way who has never been around a birth before.

We’re really pleased with how the birth went and Thi’s new calf is a great addition to the Hi Way family.

In February, we sent 12 members of staff to Assam in India to work on a zoo project which is helping protect wild elephants and the people who live with them. The zoo now hopes that their new calf can help raise more awareness of the species – listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – and the threats they are under in the wild.

Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals, added:

It’s fantastic to be able to celebrate another elephant birth at the zoo and we hope it inspires people to sit up and take notice of the issues these magnificent animals face in the wild.

African elephants are hunted for their ivory but Asian elephants, which don’t have such large tusks, are persecuted in other ways. For example, in India, elephants are injured or even killed in conflicts with humans when they walk into villages and damage crops and property, leading to retaliation in force by villagers. 

Chester Zoo runs a fantastic conservation programme in Assam in northern India, which works hard to put an end to this, helping both villagers and wild elephants to live together harmoniously. When people visit and come and see our new calf they may not realise it, but they’re actually helping fund this work in the wild.

Chester Zoo is part of a breeding programme coordinated by the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) that is focused on sustaining the elephant population in Europe.

The elephant house is open as normal.