BIG NEWS: OKC ZOO’S ELEPHANT IS EXPECTING - 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 7, 2013
CONTACTS: Tara Henson – (405) 425-0219, O / (405) 919-9038, C / [email protected]
Candice Rennels – (405) 425-0298, O / (405) 412-6172, C / [email protected]
BIG NEWS: OKC ZOO’S ELEPHANT IS EXPECTING
We’re expecting a big delivery at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden! Ultrasound images and blood hormone analysis have confirmed that the Zoo’s 18-year-old Asian elephant, Asha, is seven months pregnant. Average gestation for elephants is 22 months, making her due date sometime in December 2014. "We are cautiously optimistic because it is early in the pregnancy," said Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino, Director of Veterinary Services. “We will focus on giving Asha the best prenatal care possible, with carefully monitored nutrition, exercise and regular check-ups through ultrasounds and blood work.”
"It's exciting that Malee, Asha’s first calf, may get to be a big sister. She’ll be three years old when the calf arrives, so it will be great for her to have a sibling to play and socialize with,” said Nick Newby, Pachyderm Supervisor. Her aunt, Chandra, is also part of the Zoo’s multi-generational herd. Asha’s first pregnancy went smoothly and her calf Malee is thriving, weighing more than 2,000 pounds. "Asha has proved to be a great mother – she’s diplomatic, setting boundaries when she should while giving Malee the appropriate freedom to explore," said Newby.
Rex, the father-to-be arrived December 13, 2011 to join the Zoo’s two adult female elephants Asha and Chandra and then 8-month-old female Malee, bringing the zoo’s Asian elephant herd to four. Born in India in approximately 1968, estimated to be 43-years-old and weighing in at 8,500 pounds, Rex comes to the Zoo from Canada’s African Lion Safari. Rex has previously sired five offspring; three males and two females. Malee’s father, Sneezy resides at the Tulsa Zoo. This is the second pregnancy for Asha, who was born at the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri on February 2, 1995 and has lived in Oklahoma City since December 1, 1998. Younger sister 17-year-old Chandra, born July 2, 1996 has yet to conceive.
The Oklahoma City Zoo has been actively involved with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan for Asian elephants. "Because Asian elephants are critically endangered in the wild, the pregnancy of this elephant is important to the conservation work we do with other North American zoos and wildlife centers," says Laura Bottaro, Animal Curator. "Together AZA-accredited zoos cooperatively manage the breeding of Asian elephants to maintain healthy populations that are as genetically diverse and as demographically stable as possible.”
In addition to participating in the AZA Species Survival Plan, the Zoo supports the welfare and conservation of Asian elephants in Sumatra and other countries in Asia through the Pan Eco Foundation and African elephants through the Lekurruki Conservation Trust, a conservancy of the Northern Rangelands Trust in Kenya.
Also, with Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) a common health issue for elephants both in the care of zoos and in the wild, the Zoo has joined other North American elephant care facilities in actively supporting an EEHV research effort. The International Elephant Foundation is facilitating this study to find a cure.
Updates regarding the progress of Asha’s pregnancy will be provided periodically on the Zoo’s website and social media outlets.
Big things are happening at the Zoo year round! The Zoo is a proud member of Oklahoma City’s Adventure District located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Buildings close at 4:45 p.m. daily. Guests must exit grounds at closing time. Regular admission is $8 for adults, and $5 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344, visit www.okczoo.com, Twitter @okczoo or www.facebook.com/okczoobg.
Photo: Elephant ultrasound taken at four to five months into the pregnancy.