CZAAWE Resource Article

Milk intake and development in a newborn captive African elephant (Loxodonta africana)
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
Abstract 10.1002/zoo.20048.abs In August 2003 the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park (WAP) and the Lowry Park Zoo, under the auspices of the AZA's Elephant SSP and a USFWS permit, imported 3.8 African elephants (Loxodonta africana) from the Kingdom of Swaziland. When they were captured, transrectal ultrasound examinations revealed that one nulliparous cow was approximately 10 months pregnant. At the time of their arrival (August 2003), all of the animals were estimated to be approximately 13 years old and were thought to be nulliparous. Based on the ultrasound examination results and the average African elephant gestation period, parturition was predicted to be 20 February 2004. In this report, we provide the first detailed data about nursing activity around the clock and newborn calf development, describe maternal and neonatal nighttime activity budgets, and explore maternal weight changes during suckling and lactation. The newborn calf suckled significantly more at night than during the day, but suckled for only about 2 hr per 24-hr period. Regression analysis revealed that through the first 3 months of life the calf gained 0.385 kg/day while it suckled on a regular basis. We compare our findings with published information on wild elephants, and conclude that although the growth rate is reduced compared to hand-reared elephant calves, the suckling patterns are almost identical to those reported for wild calves. Zoo Biol 0:1–7, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.