DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - When we say there's a big new addition at the Dallas Zoo — we mean it! Zoo staffers are celebrating the arrival of a male baby calf born May 14. The 150 pound newborn doesn't have a name, yet… but, 'miracle' would be a good start.
"We're totally blown away by what happened," says Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo President & CEO.
The baby's mother, Mlilo, was one of 17 elephants rescued from a drought stricken Swaziland national park in the spring. In spite of opposition from animal activists, five of the underweight elephants were brought to the Dallas Zoo.
"This really validates why it was so important we get them here," says Hudson, "because we provided food and water for those animals for the last six months of her pregnancy. Without that, that animal wouldn't have survived in the conditions that they would have been born into."
But, the drought wasn't the only challenge standing in the way of the newborn's arrival. "Male elephants in Swaziland [national park] had been vasectomized," adds Hudson. "He beat a lot of odds, conditions they were in… and all the things they had to go through, this little guy is coming through a lot to get here."
Zoo staffers say Mom and baby are doing well. They will remain in isolation in a special nursery in the quarantine barn to give them time to bond. Still, even at 150 pounds, experts say that's on the small side for elephants.
Molly Meeker doesn't mind. The home schooled 8 year old visiting today with her grandmother can't wait to welcome the newborn… she says the elephants and giraffes are her favorites. Meeker was eager to show off what she had learned.
"I've learned that the ears on elephants are shaped like Africa," says Meeker. And the zoo visit was also an introduction to the need for conservation and protection. "I've heard that people… they kill them," she added with suddenly saddened eyes and an uncertain glance at her grandmother to make sure it was okay to say something so awful.
Zoo officials couldn't agree more. Maybe they'll call the new addition 'Ambassador'.
"We have thousands of school kids who are out here every single year learning about the situations of poaching and the ivory trade and what that does to these animals… and when they connect and can bond with these animals, it really makes them have an understanding that they couldn't get just from TV," says Hudson.
"I think it's awesome," says Cheryl Cook, Molly's grandmother and teacher. "We love babies, don't we Molly?"
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