Elephant born prematurely at Pa. zoo gets human foster parents

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Keepers are raising an elephant who was born prematurely at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

A baby elephant born about a month early at a Pennsylvania zoo is being raised by keepers because her mom can’t care for her.

Seeni, a 21-year-old elephant who lives at the Pittsburgh Zoo’s International Conservation Center in Somerset County, gave birth to a baby girl last week, the zoo announced Tuesday. The newborn is being cared for in Pittsburgh.

Officials said Seeni was not producing milk and unable to care for the calf, forcing keepers to step in.

“Currently the focus is to keep the baby warm, ensure that she is bottle fed the best possible replacement milk, track her weight gain, and watch closely for any possible red flags that may alert us to any signs of illness so that we may quickly treat her,” zoo officials wrote on a blog set up to track the baby elephant’s progress. “Keepers describe her as spunky, but she still has a long road ahead of her.”

The little one hasn’t been named yet.

The calf isn’t expected to be in the public exhibit for several months, officials said. She’ll gradually be introduced to the rest of the herd.

For now, she is under 24/7 surveillance and care, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Zoo officials described the tiny calf’s situation as “critical.” Weighing just 180 pounds, the baby is far smaller than full-term newborn elephants, who typically weigh 220 to 270 pounds.

“With this baby we have to watch everything,” Willie Theison, elephant manager at the zoo and ICC, told the newspaper.

The zoo disclosed in early May that Seeni, who was rescued from Botswana in 2011, was pregnant.