An elephant surprised zookeepers by giving birth three months after her due date

An Asian elephant left zookeepers and scientists stunned when she gave birth three months after her due date.

The little one arrived on Thursday at Chester Zoo to mum Thi Hi Way, in what is considered a “huge boost” to the zoo’s endangered species breeding programme.

Zookeepers believed that the 35-year-old mum of six calves had begun a natural resorption process, where the foetus dies and is reabsorbed.

Thi Hi Way had exceeded her due date and was starting to lose weight, while her hormone levels suggested she was reabsorbing the calf.

But she surprised the zoo on Thursday with a healthy male calf – her seventh – after a 25-month pregnancy.

“This is a wonderful matriarch to our family herd and a really experienced mum,” said Mike Jordan, collections director at Chester Zoo.

“She has successfully given birth to seven calves, but this time around circumstances were really quite astonishing.”

The calf's birth was a surprise (Chester Zoo)
The calf’s birth was a surprise (Chester Zoo)

He added: “The new youngster was up on his feet, suckling from mum and bonding closely with the rest of the family herd, including one-year-old calves, Indali and Aayu.”

The usual length of gestation for elephants is 22 months, the longest of any mammal.

Faced with habitat loss, poaching, and direct contact with humans, Asian elephants are listed as endangered on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Disease is also a threat, and scientists at Chester Zoo are working to find a cure for elephant EEHV, a deadly disease among the mammals.

The zoo is also involved in a breeding programme which aims to sustain the elephant population in Europe.

LifeWeb editor