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Christmas Day elephant baby born at Planckendael
It was a memorable Christmas Day at Planckendael animal park in Mechelen yesterday, as elephant May Tagu gave birth to a healthy baby girl. It was announced about a year ago that the 12-year-old elephant was pregnant.
Planckendael is home to two more pregnant females: May Tagu’s half-sister, Kai-Mook, and mother, Phyo-Phyo, are also expecting. The father of all three babies is Chang, who arrived in Mechelen in 2012. Last year, he was moved to Copenhagen as part of an Asian elephant breeding programme.
The birth on Monday went exceptionally well. The entire elephant family gathered around May Tagu in a ring as the baby was born – just as they would do in the wild. The healthy birth is a relief to park staff, as May Tagu’s first baby, born in 2015, was sickly and died within a few weeks.
All babies born in Planckendael this year are being given names that begin with an “S”. The public can help decide the name of the baby elephant on the park’s YouTube channel. In keeping with tradition, Asian elephants are given Asian names: The choices are Suki, Sumalee and Sawadee.
The Asian elephant population has decreased by some 50% over the last 100 years and today only 40,000 to 50,000 of them exist across India, China, Thailand and other neighbouring countries. Planckendael is part of the Brahmagiri-Tirunelli Elephant Corridor run by the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation. The project sees wildlife agents protecting elephants that travel through parts of southern India becoming more and more inhabited by people.
Photo: Planckendael’s newest elephant took to its feet and raised its trunk very quickly – a good sign of a healthy baby