24-year-old African elephant at Reid Park Zoo finally gave birth to a female calf on Wednesday night.
According to officials at the zoo, Semba began exhibiting signs of active labor around 10:35 p.m - she had been under observation by keepers since July - when keepers noticed Semba's unusual behavior. She was laying down, walking backwards and extending her tail.
According to keepers it was not much later that the calf arrived - at 10:55 p.m. - with no assistance needed from staff members. This is Semba's third successful birth, said zoo officials, but the first one for Reid Park Zoo.
"We are beyond excited," said Fred Gray, Director of Parks and Recreation in the release. "I could not be more proud of our staff for their hard work and preparation for this important day. Our top priority is the health of Semba and her calf - and I'm pleased to hear they are both doing well. The City is committed to the future of African elephants and leading the field of elephant care with colleagues. This is a fitting gift to the Tucson community on our 239th birthday."
The little female and her mother are currently off exhibit in the Click Family Elephant Care Center, but may be seen on the elephant cam between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (keep checking!) The rest of the elephant herd will remain on exhibit intermittently throughout the day.
According to the elephant keepers the first 48 to 72 hours after the calf's birth are most essential for the calf and Semba, it is during this time that the pair will form a strong emotional and physical bond. No visitors or non-essential staff members are being admitted to the Elephant Care Center during this time. Zoo officials have said once the little female is nursing regularly and following Semba instinctively, additional areas of the enclosure will be opened for the baby to explore.
“This birth, literally the largest in the history of the State of Arizona, represents a significant milestone for the Zoo,” said Jason Jacobs, Zoo Administrator. “This birth would not have been possible without the vision and partnership of the City of Tucson, Reid Park Zoo, Reid Park Zoological Society, and San Diego Zoo Global. This calf's arrival is living testament to the dedication of so many generous donors and supporters who worked together to build Expedition Tanzania, with a shared goal of housing a breeding herd of elephants in Tucson. Our Zoo staff looks forward to keeping the community updated on the progress of the calf and the rest of the herd.”