(Fort Worth, TX) – Fort Worth Zoo officials are thrilled to share the birth of a healthy, 37-inch-tall, 255-pound male Asian elephant calf. Brazos was born at 11:35 p.m. on Oct. 21, 2021. He is the fourth calf born at the Fort Worth Zoo following his mother Bluebonnet in 1998 and his aunt Belle and half-brother Bowie, both born in 2013.
This is Bluebonnet’s second calf. Bluebonnet, now 22 years old, was carefully monitored throughout her pregnancy. As part of her prenatal care, she had weekly blood tests to monitor progesterone levels, regular physical examinations, and sonograms. The calf’s father, Romeo, is 28 years old and has lived here at the Fort Worth Zoo since 2015.
Both mother and calf are doing well. Currently, they are spending time bonding in behind-the-scenes areas, and the calf is gaining about two pounds a day. The initial bonding between an elephant calf, its mother, and family unit is vital to a successful rearing. Other members of the herd are beginning to meet their newest family member. As the calf gets acclimated to his surroundings and continues to grow stronger, there will be limited hours for public viewing of baby Brazos for the next several weeks. The cooler temperatures and winter weather will also dictate his outdoor schedule.
The family tree is flourishing with three generations of elephants at the Fort Worth Zoo, which mimics how herds are established in the wild. Rasha’s birth of Bluebonnet in 1998 marked the first elephant born at the Fort Worth Zoo. In 2013, Rasha delivered Belle, making Bluebonnet a sister, and Bluebonnet delivered Bowie, making Rasha a grandmother and Belle an aunt. Bowie is now a big (half-)brother to Bluebonnet’s new calf, Brazos. In total, the Zoo is home to eight Asian elephants: four females and four males.
Since establishing its elephant breeding program in 1986, the Fort Worth Zoo has become an international leader in elephant conservation. Zoo Executive Director Michael Fouraker served as founding president of the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) and has served on the organization’s board of directors since its inception.
In April, the zoo opened its newest habitat, Elephant Springs, which includes multiple green spaces, a variety of substrates, and a multitude watering holes for both Asian elephants and greater one-horned rhino to roam. This $32 million, state-of-the-art habitat further solidifies the Zoo’s commitment to elephant conservation and management here at home. Listed as endangered since 1976 by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Asian elephant populations continue to decline for this species and if the trend continues, zoos are going to be the only place that’s left for these animals.
Elephant Springs allows us to expand our herd and share what we’ve learned through research to benefit the species worldwide. In Elephant Springs, the herd roams among multiple yards (including areas behind-the-scenes) and watering holes, including a 400,000-gallon river in which the animals can fully submerge and swim. There are also features of Elephant Springs that you don’t see, those behind the scenes, that also elevate the level of care.
A climate-controlled environment includes exhaust fans constantly in motion, keeping the air continuously circulating throughout. There are also heating elements available when necessary. The barn is equipped with indoor and outdoor training spaces that provide keepers the ability to get close-up views and, in some cases hands-on, examinations of the animals. In this space, keepers provide care to the elephants including a monthly trim of the animals’ foot pads and nails by working with them daily and training for any routine husbandry procedures. The sand floors provide added comfort for the herd and create an ideal nursery space for Brazos. When the time is right, the multiple neighboring yards are accessible should Bluebonnet and Brazos choose to venture outdoors overnight.
Fort Worth Zoo staff was ecstatic in 1998 after the arrival of Bluebonnet, Belle and Bowie in 2013 and today with Brazos. It is our hope that in this new space, guests can connect with these creatures and be motivated to learn more about them and how to save their counterparts in the wild.
ABOUT FORT WORTH ZOO
The nationally acclaimed Fort Worth Zoo has been voted a top zoo in North America by USA Today, one of the “World’s Greatest” by BloombergTV, the Best Zoo in Texas by Yahoo Travel, the No. 5 zoo in the nation by USA Travel Guide, the No. 1 family attraction in the DFW Metroplex by Zagat survey and a Top 10 Zoo or Aquarium by FamilyFun magazine.
Home to more than 7,000 animals, the Zoo is in the third of a four-phase, $100-million master plan. The first phase, African Savanna, opened in 2018; the second phase, Elephant Springs, opened in April 2021. The third, Asian Predators and African Hunters, is currently under construction and set to open in 2023. The institution’s focus on education and conservation is second to none, enhancing the lives of more than 1 million visitors a year and the animals that live here.