PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has welcomed its newest addition a month early.
Keepers say Seeni, a 21-year-old elephant, delivered a girl calf last Wednesday morning at the zoo’s International Conservation Center in Somerset County.
Seeni and two other rare Botswana females are currently housed at the facility’s state-of-the-art maternal care center.
Experts were not expecting the calf until the end of June, and because of that they were worried as she was underweight.
In a press release, zoo President and CEO Dr. Barbara Baker said, “Our first concern was to ensure that the calf was ok. Being born one month early, she weighed only 184 pounds, which is 52 pounds below the median birth weight of a calf born full-term.”
Elephant calves normally weigh between 207-290 pounds at birth.
Their second concern was Seeni. They say she was orphaned herself and did not learn how to care for a young calf. Zoo officials say she rejected her first calf in Botswana.
“We were hoping now that she was older and had already had one calf, that she might want to bond with this one. But though she was interested in the calf, she made no attempt to care for her,” Dr. Baker said in the press release.
For that reason, keepers say they have brought the calf back to Pittsburgh.
The zoo’s elephant manager Willie Theison said: “This is not a decision that you ever want to have to make. But the health and welfare of the calf was our top priority. We made the decision to transport the calf back to Pittsburgh, and introduce her to our herd here.”
Zoo officials say the calf is facing a long road as they continue to bottle feed her and watch for signs of infection, but they add that she is tough. They call her a “screecher,” meaning she makes a screeching sound when she’s looking for attention or is frustrated.
She will not be on exhibit for several more months, but the rest of the herd is curious about her.
“Once she is bigger and stronger, we will begin introducing her to the herd. I know they are very curious about her so that is a good sign,” Theison said.
But, perhaps, most importantly, the experts at the zoo say the calf is very important to conservation.
“She is introducing new genetics into an aging African elephant population in North America. A first step in efforts to save this magnificent species,” Dr. Baker said.