“Rani and baby are doing very well,” said Tim Thier, Curator of Mammals/Ungulates and River’s Edge, and Director, Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Asian Elephant Conservation. “We’re thrilled to welcome Raja’s first son into our three-generation elephant family,” said Thier.
The Zoo’s bull elephant, 27-year-old Raja, is the father. He was the first Asian elephant ever born at the Zoo in 1992, and this calf is his fifth offspring.
“Breeding and calf rearing is one part of our robust, multi-faceted animal welfare program, and important to the elephants’ social structure. Our experienced, professional elephant care team is providing exceptional care for Rani and her newborn,” said Katie Pilgram-Kloppe, Zoological Manager of River’s Edge. An elephant pregnancy lasts about 22 months and a newborn weighs about 250-350 pounds. Rani received regular prenatal health checkups throughout her pregnancy by the Zoo’s elephant care team.
Rani is part of a 10-member, three-generation elephant family that includes her new calf, Ellie (mother), Maliha, Jade (daughter), Priya, Donna, Sri, Pearl and Raja at the Zoo’s River’s Edge and Elephant Woods habitats. Rani and Ellie arrived at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2001 from the Jacksonville Zoo, where Rani was born in 1996.
Mother and baby are bonding off public view and a debut date has not been set.
For updates on Rani, her calf and other information on the Zoo’s elephant family, visit stlzoo.org/elephants.
Species Survival Plan
This elephant breeding was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan, a national cooperative breeding and management program responsible for maintaining a genetically healthy population of Asian elephants in North American zoos.
Asian Elephant Conservation
There are fewer than 35,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, and they are facing extinction due to poaching for ivory and habitat destruction. Given the shrinking population of Asian elephants, the Saint Louis Zoo is committed to conserve this endangered species. The Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Asian Elephant Conservation supports the welfare and conservation of Asian elephants in Sumatra and other countries in Asia through the International Elephant Foundation. The Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa also supports conservation of African elephants in Kenya through the Northern Rangelands Trust.
“Elephants in the wild face a growing number of threats, and elephants in zoos provide a genetic safety net should wild populations continue to decline,” said Pilgram-Kloppe.
Leaders in EEHV Detection and Testing
The Saint Louis Zoo has been a leader in pursuing the latest elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) detection and testing protocols. EEHV is a recent discovery, identified in 1995 by researchers at Smithsonian National Zoo. Since its discovery, the virus has been identified in both African and Asian elephants in U.S., Europe and in Asia.
Rani’s second daughter Kenzi died at age 6 in 2018 of EEHV, a viral infection shown to be fatal to wild elephants and elephants in human care.
Zoo veterinarians and curators routinely confer with EEHV experts across the country. For several years, the Zoo has joined other North American elephant care facilities in actively supporting EEHV research efforts.