Veterinarians performed an emergency surgery on the newborn when they noticed he tore a vessel in his umbilical cord

By Benjamin VanHoose
May 15, 2020 01:19 PM
On Tuesday, May 12 at 6:30 a.m., 29-year-old Asian elephant Shanti gave birth to a 326-pound male calf.
Credit: Houston Zoo

This elephant had an eventful introduction to the world!

Early on Tuesday morning, the Houston Zoo's Asian elephant Shanti, 29, welcomed a male calf — who weighed in at 326 lbs. — after a "short" labor. Immediately after the birth, however, zookeepers noticed bleeding and intervened to save the newborn.

The team determined that the baby tore a vessel in his umbilical cord during the birth, and they sedated the elephant, only an hour old, to perform emergency surgery. Veterinarians were able to stop the bleeding and close the hole in the baby's abdomen within 30 minutes.

Following the surgery, the calf — named Nelson — returned to with his mother, and he was soon standing and walking on his own. Nelson also began to nurse by the end of the day.

"We are extremely proud of our dedicated, skilled, and experienced elephant and veterinary teams who were thoroughly organized and ready to respond to whatever our new calf needed," Lisa Marie Avendano, vice president of animal operations at the Houston Zoo, said in a press release.

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During the precarious moments post-birth, more members of the expert team at the zoo were safely collecting blood from other elephants in case Nelson needed a transfusion. They procured three bags of the blood, which, since they were unneeded, will be saved for future use.

The zoo noted that the calf is "not completely out of the woods yet" and they will continue to monitor the animal. They are, however, "cautiously optimistic" he will fully recover.

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During his mother-son bonding time before joining the other elephant zoo residents, Nelson will hit several milestones, like communicating with his mother and reaching weight growth goals.

"We look forward to continuing to watch Nelson and Shanti bond and introducing him to Houston," said Avendano.

Shanti is also mom to Baylor, 10, Duncan, 6, and Joy, 2. With Nelson, the number of elephants at the Houston Zoo is now 11, with six females and five males.