The baby elephant was born to 37-year-old mother, Tess, on Sunday, May 16 at the zoo’s McNair Asian Elephant Habitat cow barn. Tess and Teddy will undergo post-natal exams and spend several days bonding behind the scenes before they are ready for their public debut, the zoo reports.
Trainers and veterinary staff will watch for key moments such as Teddy’s communication with his mom, as well as hitting desired weight goals.
Tess is a pivotal member of the Houston Zoo’s elephant herd: she is mother to Tucker (16), Tupelo (10), and Tilly (two), and grandmother to Winnie. The addition of Teddy raises the number of elephants in the zoo’s herd to 13—six males and seven females, a press release notes.
Zoo officials add that extra attention will be paid to the scourge of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), the most devastating viral disease in elephants worldwide. EEHV was responsible for the death of one of the zoo’s most popular and charismatic young elephants, Mac, in 2008. The disease can be found in the wild as well as in sanctuaries and zoos.
After Mac’s widely publicized death, the zoo collaborated in 2009 with herpes virologist Dr. Paul Ling at Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Virology and Microbiology. That partnership recorded advances in EEHV research and a vaccine.
“Our animal team is thrilled that the birth has gone smoothly,” said Lisa Marie Avendano, vice president of animal operations at the Houston Zoo, in a press release. “We look forward to continuing to watch Teddy and Tess bond, and introducing him to Houston.”