An Integris fertility specialist is helping veterinarians monitor hormones of the pregnant Asian elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Dr. David Kallenberger, program director of the Bennett Fertility Institute, is tracking progesterone levels of Asha the elephant.
“It's good collaboration between two different institutions to get a good job done,” Kallenberger said. “It's kind of fun and different. We're excited to be able to help out and hope we see a healthy little baby elephant.”
Veterinarians track the progesterone levels in pregnant Asian elephants because it can predict when the animals go into labor. Usually progesterone drops three to five days before delivery, said Dr. Jennifer D'Agostino, the zoo's veterinary director.
But tracking elephant progesterone levels requires very sensitive equipment, D'Agostino said. Zoos normally have to rely on a testing lab at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
But shipping serum back and forth delays results, she said.
With help from Kallenberger and his team, Oklahoma City Zoo staff can keep track of Asha's pregnancy in real time with the institute's radioimmunoassay machine.
Like all samples handled at the institute, serum from Asha does not come into contact with any other serum, Kallenberger said. To add another layer of security, Asha's hormones are the last sample to run through the fertility machine each day.
“It's totally clean,” he said. “That's part of the process.”