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Baby elephant watch: Tucson zoo announces pregnancy

Baby elephant watch: Tucson zoo announces pregnancy

  • Semba and newborn Penzi in 2020
    Reid Park ZooSemba and newborn Penzi in 2020
  • Semba the elephant
    Reid Park ZooSemba the elephant

In about a year, there'll be a new big baby in town — Tucson's Reid Park Zoo is expecting the African elephant Semba to give birth. Elephants gestate for 22-24 months, and the zoo's matriarch is about halfway through her pregnancy, officials said.

The new calf will be Semba's third born at the zoo. Her first, Nandi in 2014, was the first African elephant born in Arizona. Her youngest, Penzi, recently turned three. Semba was brought to the Tucson zoo in 2012.

A newborn elephant can weigh as much as 300 pounds.

"Semba is a great mother, and it has been incredible to watch the bond between sisters Nandi and Penzi," Reid Park Zoo President Nancy Kluge said in a press release "We’re excited for the herd to gain a member and for Semba’s daughters to take on new roles as they play and grow with this new addition to the family."

"I’m looking forward to seeing how Penzi responds to her new role as a big sister,” said Cassie Dodds, who supervises elephant care. "Nandi immediately took on a nurturing role when Penzi was born and this new arrival will give Penzi an opportunity to grow her skills caring for a younger calf."

"Not only will this birth have a big impact on elephant conservation and strengthening the elephant species survival plan for the next generation, but it also strengthens Reid Park Zoo’s family herd structure — every member of the herd will have a role in raising this new baby," she said.

An elephant who left the zoo in 2022, Mabu, is the father to all of Semba's offspring.

The zoo is tracking Semba's weight and checking her bloodwork regularly, official said.

"Elephants face many challenges in the wild," zoo representatives said in 2020, just before the birth of Penzi. "On average, 96 elephants are poached each day for their tusks — and the United States ranks second in the world in terms of the consumption of ivory. Climate change has affected the rains on the African savannahs, causing elephants to expand their range in search of food and water. This change has placed elephants and humans in close proximity, leading to human/wildlife conflicts. This calf will bring more attention to the species and, we hope, inspire guests to take action to ensure the protection of wild animals and wild places."

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, elephants, nancy kluge, reid park zoo

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