The elephant in the room arrived at 3:09 a.m. Thursday.
Well, more specifically, the baby elephant was born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium at 3:09 a.m. Thursday.
While its sex isn’t yet known, the newborn elephant appears strong, the zoo said in a press release.
The calf is the first elephant born at the Columbus Zoo in almost a decade, and it will expand the herd of Asian elephants in the Asia Quest region to seven.
The baby is the fourth born to Phoebe, a 31-year-old Asian elephant who gave birth to Beco in 2009 and Bodhi in 2004. Beco remains at the Columbus Zoo while Bodhi is at the Denver Zoo. Phoebe’s first baby was born in 1999 in Canada.
The birth also is significant because it’s the first time an elephant was born at the Columbus Zoo as a result of artificial insemination.
The process is rare for elephants but is becoming more common in attempt grow the numbers of endangered elephants, the zoo release said.
For now, Phoebe and the newborn will remain behind the scenes to allow a strong bond to develop, the zoo said. When guests will be able to see Phoebe and the baby “completely depends on mom and calf,” said Patty Peters, a zoo spokeswoman.
Join the conversation at Facebook.com/columbusdispatch and connect with us on Twitter @DispatchAlerts
Phoebe was expected to give birth in December, but showed no signs of going into labor when the animal care team left Wednesday night, Peters said. They were called back when someone from the 24-hour-a-day monitoring team noticed that changed.
“It took everyone by surprise,” Peters said.
Asian elephants are considered an endangered species in their native range across southern and southeastern Asia, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“We are very proud to welcome Phoebe’s calf into the elephant herd here at the Columbus Zoo,” Tom Stalf, zoo president and CEO, said in a release. “Each birth contributes to the global population and sustainability of this endangered species and is one worth celebrating as a sign of hope for the future of these incredible animals.”
The successful birth of the elephant came just two days after a baby giraffe died during delivery Tuesday at the Columbus Zoo. The death was the third baby giraffe to die at Columbus Zoo-operated facilities since September.