The mom-to-be, 23-year-old Seeni, is due this summer. Keepers said they were thrilled to hear the news, since African elephants are threatened in the wild and sometimes it’s difficult to breed them in captivity.
“We brought these females in from Botswana so they bring in new genetics. So having that culmination of getting this property, putting the facilities on the property, getting the elephants and finally having the calf, that’s the ultimate goal we’ve been looking for,” said Willie Theison, Elephant Program Manager at the Pittsburgh Zoo & International Conservation Center (ICC).
Seeni and two other females were rescued from Botswana a few years ago. This will be the first calf born at the center since it opened in 2006. Keepers are making sure Seeni gets exercise and has a healthy diet. However, there is a risk with her pregnancy.
“Seeni had a calf several years ago, but she refused the calf. So this will be a challenge for us to see that she raises it and bonds with it very well,” Theison said.
If Seeni doesn’t bond with the new calf, it will go to the Pittsburgh Zoo where it will be welcomed into the herd. So far, Seeni and the baby are healthy.
Zoo officials hope this new calf will inspire others to learn how they can help protect wild animals.
“It’s so important for us to be able to educate people about what’s happening and the very fact that people can see elephants in zoos and the birth of an elephant is exciting news because it helps us connect with our visitors and they learn a lot and want to support conservation efforts in the wild,” said Tracy Gray, Public and Media Relations Manger for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.
Seeni is due in June or July. Keepers don’t know yet if it’s a boy or a girl.
In the future, the center wants to rescue and breed other endangered species like rhinos and cheetahs.