Singapore, 3 December 2010Night Safari, the world’s first wildlife park for nocturnal animals, was the birth place of a baby giant recently. The first elephant to be born in nine years, it arrived on 23 November 2010 at an auspicious time of 8.08am.

Considered large for a newborn at 1.5 times the average size, the 151-kg calf arrived after 3 hours of labour, making it the fifth elephant to be born at the Night Safari. His mother, Nandong, is 25 years old and is also the mother of the previous two elephant babies – Sang Raja which is currently in Cologne Zoo and nine-year-old Sang Wira which still resides at the Night Safari. The baby elephant is sired by Chawang, the only bull elephant in Night Safari and Singapore Zoo’s collection of Asian elephants. The birth brings the total number of Asian elephants at Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), parent company of Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari, to 11.

The active calf, which has yet to be named, is already developing a character of its own. While most baby elephants stick close to their mothers in the early stages, zookeepers have noticed that this brave little one likes to wander from his mother to explore his surroundings.

“These elephants have such unique personalities. They are highly intelligent and self- aware,” said Mr Kumar Pillai, Director, Zoology, Night Safari. “We have been fortunate enough to witness 5 elephant births at our parks, as there can be a 4-5 year interval before a female will breed again. Her pregnancy lasts about 22 months, and she will not mate until the first calf is weaned, and this takes up to 2-3 years.”

Asian elephants are endangered – even more so than their better recognised counterpart, the African elephant – with an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 left in the wild. They are found in the forests of India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Many of them are widely domesticated and are used for forestry, harvesting, or ceremonial purposes.

Habitat loss poses the most serious threat to the future of these magnificent creatures, as a large part of their native homes are being logged and cleared for urban and agricultural development.

WRS has a very successful captive breeding programme and has bred other endangered animals such as the pangolin, Malayan sun bear, the orang utans and many others.

For a video on the birth of the elephant, please click here. The video shows the mother giving birth to the baby and the natural process of the adult elephants removing the amniotic bladder from the newborn.

The young 151-kg calf is the fifth elephant to be born in the Night Safari.
Nandong, the 25-year-old mother, watches closely as the team of zookeepers and vets from Wildlife Reserves Singapore weighs the calf.