We are preparing for a big delivery next year! Following the back to back births of Asian elephant calves Baylor and Tupelo in 2010, we are making preparations for Shanti, a 23 year old Asian elephant to give birth in January, 2014.
“The average gestation period for an Asian elephant is 22 months,” said Houston Zoo Director Rick Barongi. “Our nine member elephant care staff along with our four Zoo veterinarians as well as research partners at Baylor College of Medicine have been monitoring Shanti throughout her pregnancy. We’re looking forward to a successful birth and the new addition to our multigenerational herd,” added Barongi.
The Houston Zoo’s elephant care staff along with veterinarians have been monitoring the progress of Shanti’s pregnancy with regular ultrasound procedures since the late spring of last year. Keepers have also been monitoring Shanti’s weight and her diet and leading the expectant mother through a regular exercise program.
In mid-November, training of a night watch pregnancy monitoring team made up of volunteers and Zoo employees will commence. The team will observe Shanti via closed circuit TV cameras in the barn at the Zoo’s McNair Asian Elephant Habitat, monitoring and recording her behavior and watching for signs of labor. The night watch pregnancy monitoring will begin in late November and will continue until the calf’s birth.
In December, daily blood sample collection to monitor Shanti’s progesterone levels will begin. A steeply declining blood progesterone level typically occurs 3-5 days prior to delivery.
The Houston Zoo is home to 7 Asian elephants including 3 males and 4 females. Shanti’s last calf was Baylor, a male born May 4, 2010. Weighing 348-pounds at birth, Baylor was named in recognition of the unprecedented and ongoing advances made by Baylor College of Medicine’s research team to significantly reduce the threat of a potentially lethal elephant herpes virus.