330-pound bundle of joy introduced at the Fort Worth Zoo

Posted Thursday, Jul. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
Name the baby People can vote on the name through July 25 at facebook.com/fortworthzoo or by paper ballot at the Asian elephant exhibit. Here are the choices: • Belle (short for Bluebell): Bluebell is a wildflower that symbolizes humility and gratitude. • Maggie (short for Magnolia): Symbolizes sweetness, beauty and love of nature. • Rose: After the iconic song The Yellow Rose of Texas. • Ruby: One of the four precious stones and July’s birthstone; rubies are laid beneath buildings in Asian countries to secure good fortune. • Sage: Purple sage is the official native shrub of Texas. • Tujuh (too-joo): Means “seven” in Indonesian. The calf was born in the seventh month on the seventh day of the seventh moon. Source: Fort Worth Zoo

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The 5-day-old baby weighs 330 pounds, but she’s not about to venture far from the protection of her mother.

On Thursday, the Fort Worth Zoo showed off its newest bundle of joy, a female Asian elephant calf born in the seventh month on the seventh day of the seventh moon.

She doesn’t have a name yet — the zoo is asking the public to help determine that — but she has plenty of fans.

“Oh, my goodness. There it is!” cried one of the children gathered outside the zoo’s Asian elephant exhibit.

The baby trotted alongside and beneath her mother, 40-year-old Rasha, as she made her grand entrance. She won’t leave Rasha’s side for the next two years.

The calf, which entered the world at 3:34 a.m. Sunday, is only the second elephant born at the zoo in its 104-year history and the third Asian elephant born in the U.S. this year.

She is 38 inches tall, with a trunk length of 13 inches.

“Fort Worth has a baby elephant,” said Ramona S. Bass, co-chairwoman of the Fort Worth Zoological Association.

“I think it’s important for people to know that these births and the conservation work we do in zoos are critical to the survival of these magnificent animals.”

Asian elephants have been listed as endangered since 1976. They face perils in the wild, including poaching for the ivory trade, destruction of their tropical forest habitat and deadly encounters with humans.

The zoo, which established its elephant-breeding program in 1986, now has six of the giant creatures, four of them female.

“It’s important for people to see these animals so they appreciate them and ultimately help us save them,” Bass said.

Michael Fouraker, the zoo’s executive director, said workers monitored Rasha’s 22-month gestation closely. She was in labor for two hours.

The father is Groucho, the zoo’s 43-year-old bull, who is on loan to the Denver Zoo. Her sister, Bluebonnet, is 14.

Name that baby

Fewer zoos are keeping elephants because of their food and space requirements, said Fouraker, a leader of the International Elephant Foundation.

“This is significant to Fort Worth and us,” he said.

The calf will stay at her mother’s side for two years and will nurse for “well over a year,” Fouraker said.

The public is being asked to name the baby, either by paper ballot at the zoo or on the zoo’s Facebook page. There are six names to choose from — Belle, Maggie, Rose, Ruby, Sage and Tujuh.

The voting began Thursday.

Chris Vaxter, 7, of Arlington came to see the rhinos, but the baby elephant caught his attention first. He wanted to name it “Ninja” but settled on Tujuh because there was no write-in option.

Tori Hargrave, 5, learned that the zoo had a baby when she saw the pink bows and the “BABY IN TOWN” sign out front.

Elephants, she said, are her new favorite animal.

“Ummmm, I like it because it’s really cute.”

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianeasmith1

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Baby elephant and mom at Fort Worth Zoo

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