Baby Elephant Dies At Montgomery Zoo

By Mark Bullock - Email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Another heart-wrenching loss at the Montgomery Zoo -- an elephant calf died just 31 days after it was born. Last month, the zoo also lost the calf's mother, shortly after she gave birth.

Only one baby elephant is now on display at the zoo. At 11-months old, it is in good health. The younger calf died Sunday, despite the zoo staff's best efforts.

"They contacted other zoos and other professionals all over the country," said Deputy Zoo Director Marcia Woodard. "They've been here 24 hours a day around the clock.

Caretakers were hoping to bottle-feed the calf to adulthood, despite long odds.

"Hand rearing an African elephant calf, to our knowledge, has never been successful in North America," Woodard said.

It was a long process to even open Montgomery's elephant exhibit. Now, two deaths in one month are prompting criticism from an animal rights group.

California-based In Defense of Animals calls the death the result of "irresponsible breeding of elephants in inadequate facilities."

The group claims elephant exhibits nationwide are nowhere near large enough to accommodate the world's largest mammals.

The Montgomery Zoo is not making any changes to its exhibit, but may reevaluate its position following the results of Necropsy. The procedure to be performed at Auburn University should reveal the cause of the elephant's death.

The men and women who spent the last 30 days caring for the calf were not at work Monday. Zoo officials say they are having a difficult time coming to terms with the loss.

The Montgomery Zoo opened its elephant habitat in 2005. There are now a total of four elephants who call the exhibit home.