Oh so cute
He’s unnamed, under wraps and, by all accounts, adorable.
And other babies born throughout central Ohio yesterday will get a keepsake of the birthday they share.
Finally, 655 days after conception, Phoebe the elephant’s newest addition popped into the world at 2:35 p.m. yesterday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Zoo officials were so thrilled, they sent stuffed baby elephants to area hospitals for any newborns who also arrived yesterday.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Zoo Director Jeff Swanagan as he hurried back to Columbus from a conference in Oklahoma City. “I’m so proud of the staff.”
The baby is only the second elephant birth in the zoo’s history. The Asian elephant weighed 303 pounds and has started to nurse. He is the son of Phoebe, 21, and Coco, 38, who also were the parents of the first elephant birth in Columbus. Bodhi, a son, was born in 2004.
Visitors won’t be able to see the new little one immediately; keepers want to give him time to bond with his mother. Once he is on view, crowds are expected to form. Zoo officials said they will be announcing a process to name the calf in the coming weeks.
Assistant Curator Harry Peachey said the calf was born unexpectedly — they are normally born at night — in the elephant yard. He was walked inside by keepers about an hour after arriving. Births of elephants are a big deal because they are endangered and only a handful are born each year at U.S. zoos.
Peachey had been as nervous as a cat in room full of rocking chairs as he waited for the birth — a two-year affair.
The average gestation period is 660 days. For the past month or so, Phoebe had been on a “mommy cam” so volunteers could watch her 24 hours a day.
“It’s a pretty big window of when the elephant can deliver,” Peachey said. One zoo elephant kept her baby in utero for 699 days, the longest on record, he said.
Besides Bodhi, Phoebe has another son, George, who was born in 2000 at another zoo.
Zookeepers keep tabs on pregnant elephants with blood tests that determine their progesterone levels. When it gets to 0.1, as it did Thursday, delivery is expected in one to 10 days.
That’s when keepers began sleeping on cots in a room next to Phoebe, to make sure they were there when the action started.
Unfortunately for Peachey, he ran home to take a shower yesterday afternoon. In that small window of time, Phoebe dropped the baby, Swanagan said.