Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's a Boy!

By Sophie Wasserman

We are so excited to share that on March 3rd the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation welcomed their newest elephant into the world! 

Sahm, a few hours old
Photo: Rebecca Shoer

Nicknamed Sahm (Thai for “three” since he was born on the third day of the third month), the healthy baby boy was estimated to weigh in at a hefty 200 lbs (90 kg), on the larger end of the normal range of 70-100 kgs for newborns. Though elephants typically give birth during the night, Sahm was born at approximately 11:15 AM and within a few hours was walking about and attempting to nurse (it took him a few tries to get it right). Like most ungulates, a baby elephant is called a calf and Sahm will probably continue to nurse from his mother for another 2-3 years, though in the wild some calves aren’t weaned until age 5.

Sahm nursing from his mother

Mother Boonjan arrived pregnant to GTAEF in 2013 and has been on maternity leave since last fall, spending the last months of her almost 2 years of pregnancy relaxing in the grasslands. Sahm is her fifth calf and also fifth son. Females usually only give birth to 4-5 calves throughout their lifetime, almost always one at a time, though there have been rare cases of twins. 

Sahm, a week old, and mother Boonjan
Photo: Rebecca Shoer

Sahm’s older brother Somjai also lives in the GTAEF camp, where he continues to excel at our research tasks, so we have high hopes for his new baby brother. Like most very intelligent species, elephant calves are born with only a fraction (about 35-50%) of their adult brain weight. Although Sahm may be able to nurse by instinct, he still has a lot to learn about being an elephant by observing his mother and other elephants as well as his own trial and error throughout the first ten years of his life.

Photo: Rebecca Shoer
At a week old, Sahm is still a little shaky on his feet and hasn’t quite mastered stepping over, rather than on, his own trunk. His control improves every day, and by the end of the first month he should be able to pick up and hold objects with his tiny trunk. He won’t be able to use it to hold water, however, until a few months down the road. Sahm is reluctant to stray far from the safety of his mother’s legs and Boonjan is even more hesitant to let him go, gently but firmly herding him close with her trunk. In the wild, calves are the center of herd attention and are taken care of not only by their mother, but also older sisters, cousins and aunts, a behavior known as alloparenting.

To stay updated on Sahm’s most recent accomplishments, follow ThinkElephants on Facebook and Twitter. Got a question about young Sahm, animal intelligence, elephant conservation or something “irrelephant”? Ask a Research Assistant by emailing

1 comment:

  1. I'll probably never know just what it is about elephants..but I love them..every one.