Following a 22-month gestation, African elephant Mikki successfully gave birth to a male calf Friday, August 2 at 11:24 p.m. The calf was 38.5 inches tall, 30 inches long (body, head to tail) and 78 inches from the tip of his trunk to the tip off his tail. When the calf was weighed on August 4, he was 275 pounds. It is the second elephant born at the Louisville Zoo in the Zoo’s 50-year history.
Because Mikki was wild born (rescued from a culling operation in Africa in 1987) and her DNA is not related to any other elephants, her offspring are significant, adding to the diversity of the entire elephant population. Genetic diversity is critical in sustaining a healthy population as it increases the likelihood that the members will be better able to adapt and survive.
During the calf’s birth, Mikki was attended to by the Zoo’s Animal Health Center and elephant keeper staffs as well as Dr. Dennis Schmitt, the leading North American expert in elephant reproductive physiology and veterinary management. Mikki’s keepers have all had long term tenures with her and Mikki was familiar with everyone in the room that night. They were her extended herd coming together much like the aunts and sisters in the remnant wild come together for a birth in the herd.
To help the Zoo and the community celebrate the birth of Mikki’s calf, the Zoo’s gracious partners at Churchill Downs, Louisville Waterfront Park and Louisville Gas and Electric lit their iconic structures Twin Spires, Big Four® Bridge and the LG&E building green to symbolize the calf’s significant birth as part of the worldwide conservation efforts for this magnificent and vulnerable species.
Mikki and calf are doing well. The calf continues to bond with his mom and learn his environment as well as his extended family of care staff. Keepers say the calf is quite rambunctious and likes to flap his ears. Mikki, calf and their herd mate — Asian elephant Punch — will be off exhibit while the herd bonds. An announcement of a public debut as well as a naming contest will be made in the near future.
Be sure to follow the Louisville Zoo on Facebook for the latest updates. Once Mikki and calf are on exhibit, don’t forget to share your photos and tag us using #mikkiandcalf, #mikkisjourney
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) elephant breeding program is administered under the auspices of the Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative program of all accredited zoos with elephants. The plan promotes the survival of elephant species into the future by providing linkages between zoo animal “ambassadors” and the conservation of their counterparts in the remnant wild.
See frequently asked questions about the birth details, future plans and more here.