The first couple of months of 2023 were undeniably tough for the folks at Dallas Zoo: Multiple enclosures were vandalized, a clouded leopard got loose, a pair of monkeys was stolen and an old endangered vulture (who was a grandfather!) was apparently killed. So on Wednesday, we were relieved to see a zoo press release bearing decidedly good news.
Dallas Zoo welcomed the birth of a 290-pound baby African elephant late last month. On Sunday, Feb. 26, the momma-phant, Mlilo, delivered the healthy-but-heavy gray prince.
The zoo’s communications team noted in the release that the gestation time for elephants is a long one, spanning nearly two years — around 22 months. The elephant’s father, Tendaji, helped to reveal his son’s gender in a video posted to the zoo’s YouTube page.
Staff at the zoo monitored Mlilo closely throughout her pregnancy, the zoo announced in a social media post on Wednesday.
“We are very excited for Mlilo’s baby, and this has been a long time coming,” said Dr. Anne Burgdorf, the associate vice president of animal health and welfare at Dallas Zoo, in one video. Another zoological worker with the elephant department recalled how staff jumped up and down for joy after learning of Mlilo’s pregnancy in 2021.
This isn’t Mlilo’s first rodeo, though. The zoo announced in 2016 she'd given birth to another not-so-little baby elephant named Ajabu, who even as a newborn rocked a shock of red hair.
Dallas Zoo was hit with back-to-back-to-back difficult days earlier this year thanks to the aforementioned vandalism and animal theft. Eventually, Dallas Police arrested a 24-year-old man named Davion Dwight Irvin and charged him with several counts of animal cruelty and two counts of burglary of a building in connection with the incidents. (He has not been charged in connection with the vulture's apparent killing.)
Dallas Zoo has previously come under fire for importing wild elephants. Back in 2018, one advocacy group ranked it as the No. 3 worst zoo for elephants in the entire U.S., CultureMap Dallas reported at the time.