Elephant Entries - Baby Elephant Blog

Elephant Entries

The baby elephant is not currently on exhibit while she is teething.

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Sunday - August 6, 2017

Our baby elephant is teething, but have you wondered what an elephant tooth looks like? An African elephant goes through six sets of teeth that they cycle through in a lifetime, and most of their teeth are molars. The old teeth fall out as they are worn down, and a new set replaces them. In the photo, you can see a comparison between two sets of naturally shed teeth that our elephants have previously lost. The smaller tooth is from a juvenile elephant, and the larger one is from an adult. *Human hand for size comparison


Friday - August 4, 2017

While the baby elephant continues to teethe, she will remain off exhibit (including weekends) so she can rest and focus on getting through the challenges this developmental phase presents.

Monday - July 31, 2017

All four tips of her teeth have broken through the gum line, which is a major milestone. She will continue teething until the teeth grow in completely. In the meantime, our keepers have introduced all sorts of different teething toys, from a rubber donut ring, a dog’s chew toy, cool treats, to soft towels, but our little calf’s favorite teether is the thumb of our elephant manager.

While she is teething, she will not be on exhibit.


Tuesday - July 25, 2017

The baby elephant calf will not be on exhibit this week. She is currently teething her first teeth and keepers are giving her extra teething enrichment and downtime. She is scheduled to return to her daily exhibit schedule (11 a.m. until 2 p.m.) beginning Saturday, July 29, although her schedule is always subject to change based on her comfort and needs.


Thursday - July 13, 2017

Our baby elephant is making progress and the time has come to begin to integrate her with the rest of the zoo’s herd.  She will be spending time with the herd from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. daily, which means the hours she will be on exhibit are changing to 11 a.m. to  2 p.m. beginning tomorrow, Friday, July 14. She can be seen in the indoor elephant family room during this time, but please keep in mind her schedule is subject to change at any time based on her comfort and needs. We look forward to seeing her build bonds with her new family in this exciting next chapter of her development!


Saturday - July 8, 2017

One of the most important additions to the baby's diet is something we wouldn't dream of feeding a human baby. The elephant calf eats the other elephants' poop! This natural behavior is healthy and instinctual for calves in the wild and in zoos. Female elephant poop contains important bacteria and flora that the young calves need to keep their stomach and digestive system in healthy condition. Keepers take the baby into the elephants' family room and she happily prances around, scooping up poop and eating it.


Friday - July 7, 2017

Our elephant calf is now on exhibit!  She is scheduled to be in the elephant barn family room from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day.  Please note this schedule is subject to change at any time based on the calf’s comfort and needs.
 

Thursday - July 6, 2017

Mother-reared calves instinctually figure out how to position themselves under mom to be able to nurse. Even though our baby calf never had the opportunity to nurse from her mother, keepers noticed the calf walking up to some tarps outside her room, reaching up, and attempted to nurse. Wanting to encourage this natural behavior, keepers hung a tarp about a foot off the ground, which is about the distance for a calf to reach up to his or her mother. When the baby is hungry, a bottle is inserted underneath the tarp.

 

Wednesday - July 5, 2017

Even though our calf was a month premature, she has already reached the milestones we would expect to see in a full term calf. She learned quickly how to use her trunk to move objects like her big red ball.  She recently surprised keepers when she started picking up objects like keeper and veterinary care tools and carrying them for a few steps at a time.

Tuesday - July 4, 2017

We salute all those who have fought to keep our country free. Happy Independence Day!

Monday - July 3, 2017

Our little calf may still be small but her appetite is getting bigger. She is now drinking up to 16 pints of milk every day!

Sunday - July 2, 2017

A normal behavior seen in calves is falling asleep standing up.  After a while of dozing while standing, the calf sometimes wakes back up before falling into deeper sleep, and other times she eventually makes it to the ground.  Keepers tuck her in using towels and blankets, and are sure to watch that she gets to the ground carefully when she settles into a longer, deeper snooze.


 

Saturday - July 1, 2017

The calf regularly has blood drawn so our veterinary staff can monitor her health. Animal Health staff take the blood from veins in her ears, the same way they do with adult elephants.

Elephant calf sits for a blood draw from a vein on her ear.


Friday - June 30, 2017

Just like the bigger elephants in the Zoo herd, the baby elephant is trained for trunk washes.  Animal Health staff rinse the inside of the calf’s trunk and collect the fluid, which contains a sample of the microbes inside.  This preventative screening is routine and lets experts know if an illness might be trying to take up residence in the elephant so it can be treated as early as possible.
Elephant calf receives a trunk wash from veterinary staff.


Thursday - June 29, 2017

Baby elephants like to suck on just about anything they can get their mouths around, usually hay, until their teeth come in and are strong enough to bite down.  Our calf will drink her milk replacement formula until she is around one year old, at which point she will transition to solid food.  Elephants have six sets of teeth for a total of 26 teeth.  As teeth fall out, they are replaced with new teeth.

Wednesday - June 28, 2017

Zoo staff have had the opportunity to watch four calves be raised by their elephant mothers, so the keepers are keenly aware of the natural behaviors that occur and they try to replicate them as closely as possible.  For example, the calf rumbles to other elephants, and she also rumbles to the elephant manager.
 
One of the most important additions to the baby’s diet is something we wouldn’t dream of feeding a human baby.  The elephant calf eats the other elephants’ poop.  This natural behavior is healthy and instinctual for calves in the wild and in zoos.  Female elephant poop contains important bacteria and flora that a young calf needs to keep his or her stomach and digestive system in healthy condition.  Keepers take the baby into the elephants’ family room and she happily prances around scooping up poop and eating it.
 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The calf still doesn’t have any teeth, but she is exhibiting sucking and chewing behaviors that are consistent with teething. We hope to see some pearly whites soon!


Monday - June 26, 2017

The other elephants are becoming more curious by the little calf in the next room, although most of them are not yet ready to share space. Surprisingly, the matriarch elephant Tasha, who has never had a calf of her own and has not been known to be the most patient with the herd’s youngsters, has been the one most interested in the baby. She has allowed the baby to walk up to her and even touch her with her trunk. Once Tasha signals that the little calf is welcome, the other elephants will follow her lead and become more accepting. As everyone shows that they are feeling more comfortable, they will spend increasing amounts of time together.
Tasha meets the baby calf.


Sunday - June 25, 2017

The most important introduction between the baby elephant and the herd is through smell. Elephants learn and accept new objects, people, and even calves through smell. Right now the elephant herd frequently visits the baby's room for a good sniff while the baby visits their large day room. After the elephants begin to get used to each other's smells, sight will then be introduced. So far, there have been a few instances already where the herd and the calf could see each other while the keepers supervised their reactions.

Elephant calf happily rests her trunk on her face.


Saturday - June 24, 2017

Today little elephant was upgraded to a bigger baby pool for her regular baths! Now that keepers know she's comfortable and enjoys the pool, they wanted to give her more space to play. Elephants often keep their trunks above the surface of the water when they dive in so that they can breathe even with their head underwater, kind of like a snorkel! One day when she's older and bigger, she will use this technique when she goes swimming outside in the much bigger pool. 

Elephant calf enjoying a bigger baby pool.


Friday - June 23, 2017

Like elephants do, the little elephant calf is always using her trunk to explore her world. Keepers noticed that she is already picking up on how to suck water into her trunk and squirt it into her mouth to drink, just as an adult elephant would do. While she still gets her regular bottle, keepers gave her a cup of milk replacement of her own so that she can keep practicing this newly discovered technique of hers while still getting all of the good calories and nutrients this little one needs!


Thursday - June 22, 2017

Our little calf has a number of vocalizations from low rumbles to a loud screech. These calls are her way of getting attention, trying to communicate with the elephants next door, or exploring what it’s like to make noise and communicate. This vocal behavior is very normal for a baby, although sometimes she startles the other elephants in the herd. The adult elephants make rumbling noises and the calf rumbles back, which sometimes wakes the calf.


Wednesday - June 21, 2017

Our baby elephant can fall asleep very quickly, dropping her trunk to the ground and leaning up against her keepers, a bale of hay, or the wall.  Sometimes when she is fighting going to sleep, like all youngsters do, she rests her head in one of her caregivers’ laps and falls asleep.  Now that she has learned how to lay down by herself, she often goes to her bed of hay and settles in for a nap on her own.
 

Tuesday - June 20, 2017

When the baby elephant first arrived at the Zoo, the other elephants were surprised as none of them had been expecting a calf. Initially, they didn't know who this little addition was and they kept their distance. While the calf still has to grow bigger before full introductions can be made, keepers have still begun the slow process of introducing her to the established herd. The other elephants pass by her several times each day as she continues to put on weight and becomes more confident with her surroundings. New introduction methods will begin to be incorporated, but there are no expectations on how long this will take. Experts on elephant behavior, the keepers will tailor the introductions according to the elephants' reactions and comfort levels.

Photo note: That is the little calf in the lower right hand corner. She is much smaller than Natasha!


Monday - June 19, 2017

Elephant keeper staff are scheduled around the clock. They bathe, feed, and play with the baby, and comfort her when something startles her or she just wants to be close. Like a human baby, the calf requires a lot of attention. The staff has downtime when the baby is getting sleepy. Their goal is to try and recreate an environment for the calf that resembles what her experience with an elephant herd would be, as closely as possible.


Sunday - June 18, 2017

A full term calf begins to grow his or her first teeth around five to six weeks of age. When keepers see that our calf's first teeth have come in, she will be introduced soft foods such as bananas, sweet potatoes, and hay.


Saturday - June 17, 2017

Our calf loves to figure out her environment. To keep her stimulated, keepers have created a playroom. Like a mobile for a baby, our calf plays with plastic bottles tied together that swing whenever she moves them with her trunk. This allows her to develop strong trunk motor skills. She already loves to explore and she tries to climb on anything, from the keepers to the hay bales!


Friday - June 16, 2017

Our little calf had her first bath - and she loved it!


Thursday - June 15, 2017

When it's bedtime and your baby elephant is doing everything she can to stay awake...


Wednesday - June 14, 2017

A healthy, balanced diet is essential for keeping a little elephant in tip-top shape. The African elephant powdered milk replacement she received during her first 24 hours mimics African elephant colostrum. Colostrum is the substance mammalian mothers, including both humans and elephants, secrete shortly after birth to feed their young. It differs from breastmilk that is produced in later weeks and months because it is rich in antibodies, which the baby needs to stay healthy. Most of the antibodies mammal infants have is from colostrum. Since her first day, the baby has switched to an African elephant powdered milk replacement that mimics the breastmilk her mother would produce at this time in the baby’s development if her mother had bonded with her and raised her.


 

Tuesday - June 13, 2017

Our little elephant calf loves to play. She is interacting with her large red ball, flaring her ears out and holding her head up, trying to make herself look bigger and tougher. Young elephants often display this posture while playing, either out of excitement or because they’ve startled themselves investigating something new. She may be small, but she’s already quite curious!

Monday - June 12, 2017

It really does take a herd to raise a baby elephant, even if that herd looks a little different. Our elephant calf has a small dedicated team that takes shifts to be with her every minute, night and day, while she grows bigger and stronger. It is important to keep a few select people caring for her who know the calf well. They can quickly recognize any changes in her behavior that might signal an issue that we can immediately address.
Elephant calf with keeper.

Sunday - June 11, 2017

Our calf shows off her black and gold Penguin pride for tonight's big game. Let's go Pens!

Saturday - June 10, 2017

Our littlest elephant calf is also monitored to be sure that her breathing is normal. Sometimes when baby elephants drink, they can accidentally breathe in, which would result in her milk substitute ending up in her lungs instead of her stomach, potentially causing pneumonia. So far, however, she is doing a great job at feeding properly!

Please note, she will not yet be out on exhibit over the next few months as she continues to grow bigger and stronger. We appreciate all of the love and support for this little one!


 

Friday - June 9, 2017

To be sure the elephant calf is both happy and healthy, Zoo staff stay with her around the clock. Her care also includes daily visits from the Animal Health team to perform checkups. Every other day, she has her blood drawn. This allows experts to monitor her blood to be sure her complete blood count, known as a CBC, is where it needs to be. All of her blood work so far shows that she is a very healthy calf!
Elephant calf receiving an exam.


Thursday - June 8, 2017

Human babies can be fun to watch as they discover they have hands and work hard at trying to figure out how to use them.  Though baby elephants are much more coordinated and mobile at birth, being able to walk within the first 24 hours, they still have a lot of learning to do about their own bodies.  One of a calf’s biggest challenges is what to do with that darn trunk!
 


Wednesday - June 7, 2017

Our calf loves her milk replacement and is excited when she sees her full bottle! Zoo staff like to see that she’s getting the nutrients she needs. In addition to the milk supplement, her feedings also contain probiotics specially formulated to support her healthy digestion, immune system, and natural bacteria that her body needs to function properly. The probiotics also ensure that her natural bacteria levels stay in check while she takes antibiotics.

 

Tuesday - June 6, 2017

Last week, Seeni prematurely gave birth to her calf at the ICC in Somerset, PA. Unfortunately, she was not producing any milk and unable to care for the baby. Keepers were forced to step in to care for the small female calf.

The newborn elephant has since been living here at the Pittsburgh Zoo. She has a passionate and caring team that is doing their best to act as a mother elephant, feeding her, bathing her, and even resting with her as she sleeps, 24 hours a day. Our veterinary staff has been watching her health from the beginning and are following her closely every step of the way. Currently the focus is to keep the baby warm, ensure that she is bottle fed the best possible replacement milk, track her weight gain, and watch closely for any possible red flags that may alert us to any signs of illness so that we may quickly treat her. Keepers describe her as spunky, but she still has a long road ahead of her.

This little one is yet to be named, but she already has a strong presence in every heart that meets her. Our hope is to introduce her to the rest of the herd when she grows a bit bigger and stronger. She will not be on exhibit over the next several months, but we will give frequent updates!

Get Involved

Looking for a way to get involved and help our baby elephant? Elephant calves, just like most newborn mammals, require extensive amounts of care and attention. Born premature and without an elephant mother to care for her, our calf faces further possible challenges. Our staff remains with her around the clock, night and day, giving frequent feedings and ensuring that she receives all of the hands-on attention a baby needs. Veterinary staff closely monitor her health, providing medical care as needed. Help support her ongoing care and join our efforts to give this little one a healthy and happy future.