An elephant calf that was believed to have died during a nine-day labour is feeding itself and has earned the nickname "Mr Shuffles" since learning to stand.
Keepers at Taronga Zoo in Sydney said that the calf had died during the difficult labour, which started on March 1. But a live calf was born early yesterday to mother Porntip.
"Despite no vital signs of life for several days, we now have obviously a healthy little calf on the ground," zoo director Cameron Kerr said.
He said the calf had turned upside down during the traumatic labour and may have entered a coma, fooling zoo vets into thinking it had died. When it was born at 3.27 am, zoo officials called it a miracle.
New mother Porntip, who at 18 years old is the matriarch of the zoo herd, is being very gentle with her newborn, which weighs a healthy 256lb (116kg ), Kerr said.
"This little calf has been through an incredibly tough time," he said. "There is no record anywhere else in the world ... of a labour that has gone this long. There is no recording of a calf being absolutely still for several days like this."
Despite his apparent good health, however, Mr Shuffles is not out of the woods yet and keepers were holding an around-the-clock vigil.
Other members of Taronga's elephant herd have warmly accepted the calf, the second Asian elephant to be born at the zoo.
Mr Shuffles and his mother are expected to remain in a warm elephant barn out of public sight for some time.