ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Crack open the bubbly, or at least a handful of peanuts.
Rozie, the 25-year-old Asian elephant at the ABQ BioPark Zoo, has given birth to a bouncing 3-foot-tall, 200 pound baby boy — about average for Asian elephants.
“He’s making little pig-grunting noises now,” said Rhonda Saiers, the elephant manager at the zoo. “It’s very cute.”
The unnamed calf was born about 1:15 a.m. Friday inside the zoo’s elephant barn after what Saiers said was “a very short labor.”
While the labor may have been brief, Rozie carried her baby for 659 days, the exact number of days she carried her previous two calves.
And in another odd coincidence, the little guy shares the same May 4 birth date as his father, Samson, who turned 20 on Friday. Samson now resides at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, where he was transferred last month to be part of that zoo’s breeding program.
A moment of agitation occurred Friday when the newborn tripped on a log. The other adults circled around him and trumpeted until he got back up.
“The adults will get to a point where the baby will make all kinds of noises and they’ll ignore him, and you’ll see Rozie peek and go back to what she was doing,” Saiers said. “But it’s all very exciting to them right now.”
The new calf is the fourth one born into the multi-generational herd at the ABQ BioPark Zoo.
Rozie was the first, born in 1992 to Alice, who is now 45. Rozie subsequently gave birth to Daizy in 2009 and Jazmine in 2013. Daizy was sired by Samson’s brother Albert, now 19, and Jazmine was sired by Samson.
An unrelated female, Irene, is also part of the herd and has been described as “a good aunt.”
During Rozie’s first birth, “we were the midwives,” Saiers said. “The second time she had a calf we were there and ready to help out. This time, Rozie took the reins and did it herself and taught the next generation how to be an Asian elephant.
“We did nothing but watch it happily. It was absolutely incredible.”
Asian elephants live on average 45-55 years in the wild, but can live into their 60s in human care. Because the females don’t have a menopause, they can pretty much continue to have babies for most their lives, Saiers said.
Even though baby elephants will start eating food almost immediately, they continue to nurse from their mothers for three or four years.
Elephant milk is extremely rich and provides the “primary source of nutrition for a long time,” Saiers said. On average, an Asian elephant calf will gain 1-2 pounds daily.
Since he plopped into existence, the baby elephant has been “nonstop,” Saiers said. “He hasn’t been napping,” which was good fortune for lucky zoo visitors who happened to pass by an open door in the elephant barn on Friday, affording them a pretty good view.
Those gathered could be heard expressing their delight with “Awww…,” “Cute!” “Adorable” and “How precious.”
Children could be heard telling their parents, “he’s so small” — which of course is relative when talking about a newborn who enters the world at 200-plus pounds.
Even Shel Sanchez, the director of the city’s Cultural Services Department, which oversees the zoo, couldn’t resist a quick visit.
“This is like the best way to spend Friday,” she enthused. “Baby elephant. Come on. It’s very exciting.”