Herd the News? Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes Newborn Elephant

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., July 1, 2008 – Walt Disney World Resort welcomed a newborn calf to the herd of African elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this weekend. Twenty-six-year-old Moyo gave birth to a 327-pound male elephant June 28 after 21 months gestation. This newest addition, which has yet to be named, is the heaviest elephant calf ever born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.    

“African elephants are considered endangered and are challenging to breed,” according to Jackie Ogden, vice president of Disney’s Animal Programs. “This elephant birth is significant, not only for the herd and species, but also for the team of dedicated team of professionals who have been working with Moyo attentively for the past two years since the early stages of her pregnancy and round-the-clock since the elephant began to show signs of an imminent birth.”

Both calf and mother appear to be doing well according to veterinarians and elephant managers, who are optimistic about the calf’s likelihood of survival. With assistance from the animal care team, the newborn became comfortable using his “newly-discovered” legs and began nursing successfully from his mother soon after birth. He is already feisty and very active.

Moyo became pregnant through artificial insemination in September 2006 and received extensive pre-natal care throughout her pregnancy. Zookeepers added more exercise to her morning routine, and in addition to regular ultrasounds, veterinarians and elephant managers monitored her hormone levels on a daily basis to help them determine when she would give birth. Labor appeared imminent late last week and the animal care team remained with her throughout the process until the male calf was born Saturday evening around 8:20 p.m. 

This is the fourth elephant born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Tufani, who is Moyo’s first male calf, was born in 2003; Kianga, a female, was born in 2004; and Nadirah, the youngest female, joined the herd in 2005. All remain on the savannah at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is part of a breeding program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that is focused on sustaining the elephant population in North America. AZA’s Elephant Species Survival Plan has called for a five-fold increase in African elephant reproduction efforts – using both natural and artificial breeding methods – in order to create a self-sustaining elephant population among North American zoos and wildlife centers.