Naming Contest Underway For Elephant Calf Born On February 17 At The Toledo Zoo

The Toledo Zoo’s elephant herd is growing with the arrival of African elephant Renee’s newborn calf. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TOLEDO ZOO

The Toledo Zoo is thrilled to announce the birth of a healthy baby elephant, born to African elephant Renee. The male calf, currently weighing 280 pounds, was welcomed into the Tembo Trail exhibit on February 17.

“The birth of this precious baby elephant is such a momentous event. I couldn’t be prouder of our whole zoo team. The team not only has such dedication to our elephants, but they have also made every effort to bring our members and followers along for the journey of Renee’s pregnancy. A huge part of our mission is to inspire and educate. This baby is already helping us achieve our mission,” said Jeff Sailer, president and CEO of the Toledo Zoo. 

This new addition to the Toledo Zoo is the result of a successful and sophisticated artificial insemination (AI) process. Collaborating closely with the Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP), a male named Titan from Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan., was selected as the father.

“It took months of coordination working with our partners in the field,” said Michael Frushour, general curator of endotherms at the Toledo Zoo. “It takes a special team of experts to perform an elephant AI, and we prioritized working with the best professionals within the United States and from around the world to make sure that happened.”

Renee, who arrived at the zoo in 1982 and is estimated to be 45 years old in June, weighs approximately 8,300 pounds and reached 8,800 pounds during pregnancy. She is an experienced mother as this marks her third pregnancy through artificial insemination, underscoring the zoo’s commitment to preserving the elephant species. 

As the herd’s matriarch, Renee is renowned for her gentle and cooperative spirit, making her the preferred elephant for initiating new keepers into training. She enjoys watermelon and wallowing on warm days and cleverly uses objects like stumps and balls to access food, illustrating her adaptability and intelligence.

Both Renee and her calf are in excellent health, with the zoo’s dedicated staff providing meticulous care and monitoring. Throughout her pregnancy, Renee remained active and healthy, thanks to the elephant team, who conducted daily exercises, monitored her hormone levels and performed weekly ultrasounds. Her care team also collected plasma and conducted overnight observations as her due date approached, ensuring both mother and calf remained in excellent health. You can view these videos on the zoo’s social media channels.

Like several animals at the Toledo Zoo, the African elephant has been classified as “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. As such, the Toledo Zoo is dedicated to providing a safe and enriching home for these animals and educating the public about the importance of preserving and protecting wildlife.

“Preserving the future of this species is critical to us, and we are committed to doing so. We’re looking forward to the new calf joining our herd, and we’re optimistic that he will fit in just fine,” Frushour said. In addition to Renee and the newborn calf, the zoo is also home to two other elephants, Twiggy and Ajani.

Twiggy, a USDA-confiscated elephant who arrived in Toledo in February 2010, weighs 7,200 pounds and is estimated to be 39 years old in July. Known for her vocal nature and love for watermelon, Twiggy is very nurturing, and the team eagerly anticipates her interactions with Renee’s new calf.

In September of 2023, the zoo welcomed Ajani, a 23-year-old male elephant. Born at the Indianapolis Zoo and having spent time at the Birmingham Zoo before moving to Sedgwick County Zoo, Ajani has been a great addition, enriching the social dynamics of the herd as he gets acquainted with the keeper staff, along with Renee and Twiggy.

The newest member of the herd will need a name, so the zoo has launched a naming contest in which the public can donate to select their favorite name for the male calf. The contest closes at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, March 14. To vote, visit https://toledozoo.info/forms/baby-elephant-naming-vote/. 

The winning name will be announced via the zoo’s social media platforms on Friday, March 15, followed by the calf’s public exhibit debut on Saturday, March 16. 

From that date, guests can visit Renee and her calf Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Viewing on Saturday and Sunday will be from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Zoo members can enjoy early admission from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. for Member Mornings. 

Zoo staff is asking the public to please be patient as they manage exhibit visitation. Twenty guests at a time will be guided by zoo staff to enter the indoor exhibit. Noise levels must be kept to a minimum and no flash photography will be permitted. 

On April 6, the zoo is hosting the Elephant Baby Bash to celebrate the calf and allow the community to contribute enrichment items. There will be an online component (with an Amazon wish list), an Entry Plaza drop-off site and a drop-off site inside the zoo at Tembo Trail that will feature activities, scheduled enrichment and keeper talks. 

For more event details, visit https://toledozoo.org/events/elephant-baby-bash. 

The community can also help provide exceptional animal care and enrichment for all animals at the Zoo with a Zoo PAL sponsorship. Kroger will match elephant Zoo PAL donations up to $5,000. 

Zoo PAL benefits and sponsor levels can be found at https://www.toledozoo.org/zoo-pal. 

More information about the Toledo Zoo can be found at https://toledozoo.org/.

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