The Louisville Zoo’s 33-year-old African elephant, Mikki, gave birth to a male calf at 11:24 p.m. on Friday, August 2, 2019. It is only the second elephant born at the Louisville Zoo in the Zoo’s 50-year history.
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 did all the work. Her labor progressed nicely and without complications,” said Senior Veterinarian Dr. Zoli Gyimesi. “Mikki gave birth to a strong and vigorous bull calf.” According to Dr. Schmitt, “The delivery was textbook. All the staff, both elephant and veterinary staff knew their roles and performed them perfectly.”
Immediately after the birth, the veterinary team performed a neonatal exam.
The calf measures 98 cm tall, 77 cm long (body, head to tail) and 198 cm from the tip of his trunk to the tip off his tail. Mikki, calf and herd mate – Asian elephant Punch – will be off exhibit while the herd bonds. An announcement of a public debut will be made at a later date.
“It’s an exciting day at the Louisville Zoo,” said Louisville Zoo Director John Walczak. “We are so thrilled for Mikki and this calf. We are grateful to our community for embracing Mikki’s pregnancy and being a part of her journey. Raising a calf is one of the most enriching things an elephant can experience. I am very proud of our staff and the amazing job they did to ensure a smooth and safe pregnancy for Mikki and for the calf during birth.”
Mikki gave birth after nearly a 22-month gestation (651 days). She became pregnant through artificial insemination in October 2017 with the help of Dr. Schmitt. Mikki was carefully monitored and well cared for throughout her pregnancy. Staff worked hard to regulate Mikki’s diet and exercise her daily in order to minimize weight gain and get her fit for the delivery. Ultrasound exams and blood hormone monitoring were performed regularly to track the pregnancy.
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.
“Elephant breeding at accredited zoos provides critical support for elephant conservation, said Walczak. “Every day, more and more habitats for wild animals are lost due to a growing human population, habitat destruction and poaching. The African elephant population has declined and we want to do our part to help with conservation efforts both locally and worldwide.”
To help the Zoo and the community celebrate the birth of this important elephant calf, the Zoo’s gracious partners at Churchill Downs (Twin Spires) and Louisville Waterfront Park (Big Four® Bridge) will light their iconic structures green. Beginning Monday, the Louisville Gas and Electric building’s green light will be in honor of the calf. Green will symbolize this calf’s significant birth as part of the world-wide conservation efforts on behalf of this magnificent and vulnerable species.