Reid Park Zoo Welcomes New Elephant Calf to the Herd

The wait is over! Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona is proud to announce that Semba, the Zoo’s African elephant matriarch, gave birth to a calf at 3:33 a.m., Monday, April 6, 2020. The female calf who weighed in at 295 pounds is healthy, standing, and nursing.


“Semba is an experienced mother,” said Dr. Sue Tygielski, Director of Zoological Operations. “After 22 long months of gestation, she had smooth labor without any complications. As African elephants continue to face increasing challenges in the wild, each birth contributes to the global population and sustainability of this vulnerable species. Today, the birth of this calf gives us cause for celebration at Reid Park Zoo, and it gives us optimism for the future.”


Zoo animal care staff will continue to closely monitor Semba and her calf, ensuring they are receiving the best of care. Tygielski said, “Semba is an excellent mom, and she has had close and nurturing interaction with the calf. Elephant births are exciting but also a test of patience for staff and the elephant mom.”


The new calf expands the Zoo’s elephant herd to six, joining Semba, father Mabu, female Lungile, nine-year-old brother Sundzu and big sister Nandi, who turns six this summer. The calf is the second African elephant calf born at Reid Park Zoo, with Nandi being the first birth in 2014. Shortly after birth, Semba encouraged the calf to meet and touch Lungile and Nandi. Later in the day, Mabu and Sundzu had the opportunity to see the calf. Over the next few days, the herd will spend time together as a family.


Zoo animal care staff observed breeding behavior between Semba and Mabu in late spring 2018 and soon after confirmed that Semba was pregnant. Zoo animal care staff have provided excellent prenatal care for Semba. She participated in regular ultrasounds to monitor the development of the calf and blood tests to monitor hormone levels during her pregnancy. For over 7 weeks, the animal care staff and volunteers went on 24-hour “baby watch,” and the care team worked to baby proof the Zoo’s elephant habitat and the Click Family Elephant Care Center in anticipation of the new arrival. Like Nandi, this calf was born in the middle of the night.


“This is a great day for Reid Park Zoo, and really, a beacon of hope,” said Nancy Kluge, Reid Park Zoological Society President and CEO. “Coming during this challenging time in the world, this baby elephant is a symbol of the beauty and resilience of life for so many. We are just thrilled for Semba and the whole herd. We are grateful to our community for following Semba’s pregnancy, especially while the Zoo has been closed. We look forward to the day when we can welcome the public back to Reid Park Zoo to help us celebrate the joy of this new baby and our elephant herd.”


The first few weeks are a crucial bonding time between mom and calf. “Semba and her new calf will be on a portion of the habitat soon and we can’t wait to share the calf via webcam and videos until visitors can come to the Zoo again,” said Tygielski.