Wildlife

Baby Elephant’s Birth Gives Fresh Hopes to Elephant Population

Baby calf Noëlle is the first domesticated elephant to be born in Cambodia in decades, and after a rocky start in life, conservationists say she is doing well.
Noëlle plays with Camille Clais. Picture: Chenda Clais
Noëlle plays with Camille Clais. Picture: Chenda Clais

Cambodia’s first domesticated elephant calf was born this week in Ratanakiri province, giving fresh hope to conservationists.

The baby elephant was called Noëlle because she was born during the Christmas period and her health is improving daily, said Chenda Clais of Airavata Elephant Foundation.

Chenda Clais poses picture with Noëlle. Picture: supplied
Chenda Clais poses picture with Noëlle. Picture: supplied

The Airavata Elephant Foundation carries out conservation work to protect Ratanakiri’s remaining elephants. According to its website, the population is quickly dwindling, with about 70 domesticated elephants and 200 to 250 wild elephants left in the country.

Noëlle was born on December 26 in Ratanakiri’s Lumphat district from her mother Ikeo, Chenda Clais said.

“The whole association, supporters and the Cambodian population are very happy to have received this wonderful gift, the domesticated elephant,” she said. She added it has been a difficult task to get the mother elephant to know the calf and workers have been feeding Noëlle with milk.

Noëlle’s health is improving, Chenda Clais said. Initially, the calf’s urine contained blood, an issue that has now been resolved.

“It has been 30 years since a domesticated elephant gave birth. This is a special event for Cambodia and it’s a pride that our Cambodian people can breed a domesticated elephant. It is hopeful for conservation work of our domesticated elephants.”

Chenda Clais added that she heard in the past domesticated calves were born, but died after birth.

Chenda Clais feeds Noëlle. Picture: supplied
Chenda Clais feeds Noëlle. Picture: supplied

Ikeo is Airavata’s only female, she was born in captivity in the village of Samot Krom in 1982. When Ikeo was two-years-old, Vietnamese soldiers took over the village and shot her mother to take her tusks, according to Airavata’s website.

Airavata said Ikeo’s owner then hid her in the forest for more than a year until the Vietnamese withdrew from the village. Ikeo started working hard from the age of seven. Her job was to carry large amounts of wood to neighboring Vietnam.