'Miracle' birth of baby elephant, says zoo
Wed, Mar 10, 2010

SYDNEY: A baby elephant believed to have died during labour was born alive at an Australian zoo on Wednesday, amazing its keepers and defying expert opinion that such an outcome would take a "miracle".

Sydney's Taronga Zoo said Monday that the calf had died in the womb after becoming trapped in a position from which there was never any chance of a successful birth.

"Despite overwhelming evidence that her first calf had not survived a protracted labour, Taronga's Asian Elephant Porntip delivered a male calf alive at 3:27 am today," the zoo said in a statement.

Zoo director Cameron Kerr said keepers had been with Porntip round the clock and early Wednesday reported the "amazing news" that the calf had been born and was showing signs of life.

"Porntip is with the calf as her keepers and the veterinary team work to support them both," Kerr said.

"His health is being monitored and it is still too early to know if the calf will survive long-term."

"There are no guarantees of its long-term survival at this early stage but we hope that its birth against the odds will stand it in good stead."

On Monday, the zoo's senior veterinarian and the world expert on elephant births, Dr Thomas Hildebrandt, told the media the calf was believed dead.

"Should the calf be born alive, it would be a miracle," Hildebrandt said.

Taronga's Asian Elephants are part of a controversial programme to breed the endangered creatures which began after the animals arrived from Thailand in 2006.

The male calf is the second elephant conceived by artificial insemination in Australia after the birth in January of a female at Melbourne Zoo. In July 2009 Taronga welcomed the first baby elephant ever born in Australia, a naturally conceived male.

As few as 33,000 endangered Asian elephants are thought to remain in Asia.

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