Baby elephant Tilly born at the Houston Zoo

Photo by Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

The sweetest little Father’s Day present is here! Less than a year after Houston welcomed Asian elephant calf Joy, a new kid is on the block. June 17 at 2:38 a.m., 35-year-old Asian elephant Tess gave birth to a 345-pound female without complication, and the calf began learning how to nurse within the first few hours. The calf has been named Tilly by the team members who have dedicated their lives to the care, well-being, and conservation of these incredible animals.

“Our animal team is thrilled that the birth has gone smoothly,” said Lisa Marie Avendano, vice president of animal operations at the Houston Zoo. “We look forward to continuing to watch Tilly and Tess bond, and introducing her to Houston.”

Tess gave birth in the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat cow barn under the supervision of her keepers and veterinary staff. She and the calf will undergo post-natal exams and spend several days bonding behind the scenes, before they are ready for their public debut. During the bonding period, the elephant team is watching for the pair to share several key moments like communicating with mom and hitting weight goals. This is the third calf for Tess, who is also mother to Tucker (13) and Tupelo (7), and raises the number of elephants in the Houston Zoo herd to ten, four males and six females.

Baby elephants are quite wobbly when they're first born, so Tilly wore a harness for a few days so the zoo’s elephant team could help her stand steady while nursing.

The morning of June 19, among the audible adoration of zoo guests, baby elephant Tilly took her first steps outside with mom, Tess, following closely behind. The two-day-old baby stole the hearts of onlookers as she joined the herd and was greeted by her family of elephants.

Mom and baby explored the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat under the careful watch of the Houston Zoo elephant team. In the coming days, Tilly and Tess will spend time with the herd outside and also have private time to rest behind the scenes together. Zoo guests have the best chance to get a glimpse of Tilly each day during cooler morning hours.

Just by visiting the Houston Zoo, guests help save baby elephants and their families in the wild. A portion of each zoo admission and membership goes straight to protecting an estimated 200-250 wild elephants in Asia. The Houston Zoo started its work in Borneo in 2007 and also provides funds for elephant conservationist, Nurzhafarina “Farina” Othman and her team in Asia to put tracking collars on wild elephants. This group uses collars to follow wild elephants, conducting valuable research that aids in protecting the elephants as they travel through the forests. Farina also spends time working with farmers that grow and produce palm oil, offering her guidance in responsible cultivation practices that are wildlife-friendly.

— Houston Zoo