The heart-warming moment that a whole family of trumpeting elephants at Dublin Zoo help an expectant mother to give birth to her female calf has been captured on RTÉ’s hugely popular The Zoo series.
Cameras in the elephant enclosure show expectant mother Asha going through labour after a 22-month gestation surrounded by her herd.
CCTV captured the calf, Zinda, being born on the sand to her mother before an extraordinary welcome was given by the excited herd who circled around her.
The 10-year-old new mother, who was the first Indian elephant to be born at Dublin Zoo a decade ago, was shown getting encouragement from her own mother, Bernhardine, during labour.
Gerry Creighton, operations manager at Dublin Zoo, said it was remarkable to watch the herd’s joyful reaction to the birth as they celebrated with trumpeting and chirping noises.
“We didn’t really know what to expect with Asha being a first-time mother, but she delivered the performance of her life,” said Mr Creighton.
“When it finally came all the herd came together to share in that intimate moment of a new herd.
“Bernhardine, the matriarch and Asha’s mother, took control of the whole situation and calmed everybody down.”
Mr Creighton said it would have helped Asha to have witnessed the birth of other calves at the zoo.
“It’s all learned behaviours,” he said. “They tap into that information when they need it. It was a tough labour, but she excelled.”
Dublin Zoo is seen as a world leader when it comes to its remarkable elephant breeding programme which has seen the arrival of seven calves in recent years.
They are believed to be the largest group of calves ever to be born in captivity together in a herd — a testament to the conditions in Dublin Zoo’s elephant enclosure, which mimic the wild.
In the case of a contented Asian elephant herd in the wild, the females synchronise their oestrogen cycles, so their calves are born together, but it is remarkable to see the phenomenon in a zoo, with three calves born within three months of each other in 2014.
The 23-year-old bull Upali, who came from Chester Zoo, England, was chosen because of his gentle nature around calves in the herd.
The herd now comprises matriarch Bernhardine, her sister Yasmin, daughters Asha and Anak, older calves Kavi, Ashoka, and Samiya, and calves Avani, Zinda, and Kabir, along with a seven-week-old male calf born in February.
A birth is a momentous event for the herd — with a 22-month pregnancy cycle — and they usually stimulate the calf by kicking it to get it to stand up.
‘The Zoo’ returns to RTÉ One tomorrow night.
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