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Oklahoma City Zoo's elephant expected to give birth this week

Volunteers and zookeepers are watching Asha 24 hours a day. The Oklahoma City Zoo elephant is due May 1, but keepers already have moved her into the delivery stall and are looking for signs that she could go into labor.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: April 12, 2011

Live camera: Elephant living quarters at the Oklahoma City Zoo

Like humans, elephants can have delivery problems, D'Agostino said. Calves can become trapped in the birth canal, suffer from birth defects or be stillborn.

Oklahoma City Zoo officials have agreed not to perform a cesarean section on Asha if things go wrong, D'Agostino said. No other elephant C-sections have been successful, and staff will work to save Asha first if the lives of her and her calf are in danger.

“There's only so much we can do if something goes wrong,” she said.

But so far, she said, everything looks normal. Asha is healthy.

Mother, calf will have alone time

Contractions can last for a couple of days, and active labor usually lasts from 12 to 24 hours, D'Agostino said. Once Asha's labor progresses, contractions may be visible.

“When it happens, you can't be sitting there with your jaw on the ground,” she said. “You've got to go. ... It could happen in a hurry.”

In the wild, other female elephants would take care of the calf immediately after birth, D'Agostino said.

But Chandra, the only other female in the Oklahoma City Zoo herd, has never been around calves, just like her sister. So vet staff will take over while Chandra views from afar within the elephant barn, D'Agostino said.

“We're a little bit more hands-on with our elephant birth than we are with some of our other animals,” she said.

The calf is expected to weigh about 250 pounds, she said.

D'Agostino and her staff will monitor the calf's breathing and check for any birth defects. They'll weigh the calf and draw blood. The elephant keepers will stay with Asha to help her finish the birthing process.

Asha and her calf will stay off-exhibit for a couple of days or weeks, depending on how well they both are doing after the delivery. When officials determine they're both doing well, they'll be able to be seen in the community stall.

Zoo visitors will be able to see them through soundproof windows at the top. Eventually, they'll move outdoors, and after that, the calf will meet its aunt, Chandra.

Elephant Nation