Video: Baby and mama elephants re-introduced

updated 8/27/2008 11:47:01 AM ET 2008-08-27T15:47:01

The mother of a newborn baby elephant is no longer tethered, and is now together with her baby, nursing it.

It's an exciting development for zoo handlers after the elephant mother Rose-Tu initially displayed aggression toward the newborn elephant.

Zoo staff have been busy since the baby elephant's birth, working to insure the baby's survival.

On Monday, Oregon Zoo Deputy Director described the scene to Portland news station KGW, which has been reporting the story from the beginning.

"Rose-Tu and her calf have been together since 5 p.m. last night," said Keele. "The staff has been working day and night to help ensure this critical reintroduction is successful."

The 286-pound calf approached Rose-Tu and nursed on both sides of her during the supervised reintroduction. Rose-Tu has been lifting her front leg forward and tucking the calf under her, almost like a hug, according to Keele.

In fact, Rose-Tu appears to have calmed down significantly since giving birth and kicking her newborn.

"At one point, the calf was in the wrong place and Rose-Tu gently nudged him with her trunk, repositioning her legs so he could get better access for nursing," Keele said. "She seems especially calm around him, and when he nurses it looks like Rose is almost sleeping, she's so relaxed; it's a very good sign."

Oregon Zoo
Enclosed by an impromptu protective barrier made from hay and soft wood shavings, a newborn asian elephant waited for the moment when he could be re-united with his mother Rose-Tu.
KGW documented the elephant birth and bonding process on its Web site with a first person blog, a slide show, and videos of the dramatic birth, first steps and nursing.

When Rose-Tu appears too tired to nurse, keepers have been supplementing the baby's diet with elephant formula.

The calf continues to get stronger and is a "good eater" according to Keele.

The baby elephant is taking in about 10 to 12 liters a day, according to zoo veterinarian Dr. Lisa Harrenstien. About two-thirds of that amount is milk from Rose-Tu, and the other third is formula.

"From the behavioral signs we've seen thus far, we're very hopeful that the reintroduction will be successful," Keele said.

He believes that because Rose-Tu had never seen a birth before, she became confused when the baby was born.

Zoo staff tried to reintroduce the two Saturday night, but Rose-Tu was still aggressive at the time.

"When we brought the calf in the very first time, she tried her best to get to it by breaking chains, and breaking chains means she could potentially be free and posed a threat to her calf and the staff," Keele said.

In the meantime, the elephant calf cried for its mother.

"He was inconsolable," Keele said.

Keepers were desperate to reunite the calf with his mother as soon as possible.

After 13-year-old and 7,000 pound Rose-Tu gave birth to the calf Saturday, she repeatedly kicked the newborn. Fearing for the calf's life, zoo staff swiftly separated the baby from his mother.

(KGW reporter Jane Smith also contributed to this article.)


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