SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A zoo in Syracuse, New York, is celebrating the historic birth of male Asian elephant twins. It's an incredibly rare event that's not only significant for the zoo, but for the country and conservation efforts around the world.
The Rosamond Gifford Zoo welcomed the twins on Oct. 24.
The first calf, weighing 220 pounds, was delivered at 2 a.m. The zoo said the calf was "perfectly healthy" and his mother, Mali, had no complications.
The second was born 10 hours later in an event that the zoo said "astonished" the animal care staff.
The second calf weighed 237 pounds and was weaker than the first. Zoo staff has been able to significantly improve the calf's condition.
Due to the sheer improbability as well as the complexity of elephant ultrasounds, the zoo said its team didn't expect the birth of twins, but they prepared for it just in case.
The zoo said elephant twins make up less than 1% of elephant births worldwide. Of twin pregnancies, the zoo said, twins are often stillborn or are too weak to survive and, sometimes the mother elephant does not survive.
This is the first-ever recorded case of surviving elephant twins in the United States. The few successful twin births that have happened, have only taken place in their range countries in Asia and Africa and nowhere else in the world.
“This is truly a historic moment for the zoo and our community. I couldn’t be prouder of our exceptional animal care team, the support of the veterinary staff and their tremendous dedication to Mali and the twins,” County Executive Ryan J. McMahon said. “The important research happening right here at the zoo will have a significant impact worldwide on behalf of this magnificent endangered species.”
Asian elephants are an endangered species. The zoo explained that their wild populations are threatened by human conflict, habitat destruction and ivory poachers. There are an estimated 20,000 left in the wild.
The zoo will study the twins as part of a plan to save the species.
The twins will be part of the zoo's role in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan, which is designed to save critically endangered animals.
Of extreme importance, the zoo said, are Mali’s placentas, which were immediately transported to Baylor University for elephant research.
They will be studied to help create a treatment and vaccine for Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus, which is the leading cause of death among young elephants.