For the first time in Melbourne Zoo’s history, three Asian elephants have become pregnant naturally and will give birth next year.
New mum Mali, who was also born at the zoo 11 years ago, is sharing her pregnancy journey with her 28-year-old mother Dokkoon, as well as 20-year-old Num-Oi.
Both of the older elephants have previously conceived via artificial insemination.
Asian elephants, which are an endangered species, have a gestation period of 22 months so the trio still have a long way to go.
Luk Chai, who was the first elephant born at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo 12 years ago, arrived at Melbourne Zoo last December to be a breeding bull.
Clearly, he has already had some great success.
Victoria’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the calves would be born at Melbourne Zoo, then the entire herd would move to Werribee Open Range Zoo in 2024 following an $84m expansion.
Melbourne Zoo trail of the elephants life science manager Erin Gardiner said there was a great benefit to having three calves grow together.
“Having three elephant calves growing up together is ideal for their social development, as a closely bonded herd is so important for elephants’ welfare,” she said.
“This will further strengthen the already wonderful bonds within our elephant herd.”
Melbourne Zoo is part of a regional breeding program for Asian elephants and the keepers have been busy preparing for the arrivals.
Zoo vets have also been monitoring the health and nutrition of the expectant mums.
The genders will not be known until the calves are born.
“It’s going to be a busy time for Melbourne Zoo’s elephant keepers and veterinary team as they care for three pregnant elephants,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“It will be so exciting for all Victorians to watch this Asian elephant herd raise three precious babies together.”