© 2022 90.5 WESA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Pittsburgh Zoo's Baby Elephant In Critical Condition

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium's baby elephant walks next to caregiver Willie Theison during her public debut on July 7, 2017.

UPDATE: Pittsburgh Zoo officials said Friday that the elephant calf is doing well after surgery and was moving around. She is currently using a feeding tube to get one pint of formula and officials said her GI tract was functioning normally. She is also taking a bottle of milk from Nan, a lactating elephant also at the zoo.


Earlier Version:  

Pittsburgh Zoo officials announced Wednesday that the facility’s baby elephant's health is flagging, and that the next 24 to 48 hours will be critical.

The elephant, which hasn’t yet been named, hasn’t been eating and is underweight. Zoo officials said that it’s likely due to the discomfort she is feeling while teething.

Under normal circumstances, zoo officials said, this wouldn’t be a problem. However, the elephant's premature birth caused significant health problems and prevented her from reaching the “milestone of gaining weight.”

"We're very, very, very worried about her," zoo director Barbara Baker said, while choking back tears during a press conference Wednesday. "We're crossing our fingers and really praying hard that she'll make it." 

Baker said the 24-48 hour period is critical because caregivers must make sure the calf is getting enough fluids and nutrients, as well as maintaining them in her system. 

The calf was born earlier this summer and made her public debut in July.

She was born at the zoo’s International Conservation Center in Somerset County to an elephant named Seeni. Unfortunately, Seeni took no interest in the baby, which is why she was moved to the zoo where handlers could give her 24-hour care.

In July, during the calf’s debut, Baker said caregivers were waiting to name her because they didn’t want to “jinx” it.

Zoo officials said they have reached out to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to “ensure we have all of the information to care for the calf.” The wildlife trust, located in Nairobi, Kenya, cares for orphaned elephants and fosters rehabilitation

*UPDATED: Aug. 25, 2017 at 3:56 p.m. 

Sarah Kovash previously worked as a web producer for KDKA-TV, as a freelance journalist for the Valley News Dispatch covering local government throughout the Alle-Kiski Valley and at NPR station KPBS in San Diego.