Melbourne Zoo's new baby elephant, Willow, has died

The Melbourne Zoo Asian elephant herd in 2013. Photo: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

A six-week old baby elephant born in Melbourne Zoo has died.

The Asian Elephant calf, named Willow, was born on June 15, to Num-Oi, who arrived at the zoo 10 years ago from Thailand.

Zoo director Kevin Tanner said staff who had been caring for the elephant 24/7 since she was born are devastated.

“Our team could not have done more for Willow to keep her comfortable while making every possible effort to pull her through,” he said.

Willow was in intensive care after being born with a congenital condition of both carpal (wrist) joints that prevented her from standing and feeding from her mother.

Melbourne Zoo’s head veterinarian, Dr Michael Lynch, said staff tried to give her bottles made up of an artificial Asian elephant milk formula mixed 80/20 with her mother’s milk, but she didn’t feed reliably and ended up on intravenous drips for both fluid and nutrition.

Willow’s carpal joints issue was treated with help from Dr Liz Walmsley, from the University of Melbourne’s Equine Centre – the problem is not uncommon in foals – and resolved over four weeks, but the elephant contracted a blood infection nearly a fortnigh ago that Dr Lynch said was very difficult to control.

“While she showed a good response to antibiotic therapy in her general demeanour, the infection unfortunately localised in her chest and limb bones. It became evident yesterday that the infection in her bones had progressed to a point where lasting damage had occurred,” he said.

Willow died yesterday evening in the Elephant Barn, and her mother Num-Oi has been given the chance to grieve her calf, which she’d carried for 22 months.

Num-Oi is one of three elephant cows brought to the zoo from Thailand in 2006 as part of a breeding program to create an insurance population of this endangered species.

But it’s the second tragedy for Num-Oi, whose first calf Sanook died in an accident while playing with a hanging tire in the barn one evening.

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