Oklahoma City elephant health to be watched even more closely as birth nears

The elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo are checked out every day for any health concerns, and veterinarian staff exam them up-close at least once a month.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: November 21, 2010 at 7:24 am •  Published: November 21, 2010

The elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo have a regular medical routine, but the pregnancy of one elephant means even more attention to health.

Dr. Jennifer D'Agostino is following Asha's pregnancy by tracking her cervix and the levels of progesterone in her blood. The director of veterinary services also uses a small, portable ultrasound machine — the same kind that can be used on humans.

Zookeepers have been working to train Asha for the birth of her calf, D'Agostino said. Chandra is also receiving birthing training, too, in the hopes that someday she will be pregnant.

Good preparation is vital to good health, D'Agostino said.

“There's a lot of training involved,” she said.

Zookeepers work with animals to make sure they can perform certain tasks that are necessary for wellness. Elephants must present their ears for weekly blood draws. They must show their feet for annual X-rays and spit-out saline water to check for tuberculosis.

Officials also designed the elephant barn with health in mind, D'Agostino said. For example, skylights allow UV rays to come into the barn, so even when the elephants are indoors, they are benefiting from sunlight exposure. Also, radiant heating in the barn floors keeps the animals more comfortable during the cooler months.

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