TAMPA — Talk about a big Christmas present.
Officials at Lowry Park Zoo say an African elephant named Mbali gave birth to her first calf on Sunday. Mbali was one of 11 elephants rescued from culling in Swaziland, Africa, and brought to the U.S. nearly a decade ago.
The newborn female, sired by a bull named Sdudla, is the second African elephant to be born at Lowry Park, the first from the rescued herd.
Officials say the calf is significant because she introduces new DNA into the gene pool of elephants managed in North America.
Zoo workers are monitoring Mbali and her calf to ensure established nursing and proper maternal behavior. They will soon be reunited with two other mature females, who will help care for the newborn.
The newborn calf has not yet been named, but the zoo said it has extended an invitation to the Reilly family in Swaziland, to select an appropriate name, in honor of their leadership in establishing three national parks for wildlife conservation in that country.
An elephant's gestation is as long as 23 months. Although the newborn has yet to be weighed, calves are normally 200 or more pounds at birth, and stand just hours after being born, the zoo said.