Oklahoma zoos expect baby elephant in 2011

BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: December 7, 2009 at 4:15 am •  Published: December 7, 2009
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at attempt was unsuccessful.

Zoo staff suspected Asha was pregnant and got confirmation in October. An ultrasound showed a tiny elephant — about the size of a shelled peanut — inside her womb.

"I feel like this is our way to make a difference and make a contribution. … This is really a great time for elephant conservation,” Connolly said.

But the excitement aside, Connolly and his team are turning their attention back to Chandra. They’ll have three or four more opportunities to pair her with Sneezy before both females will have to return to Oklahoma City.

Coming home
The elephants will be moved back to the Oklahoma City Zoo at the same time, even if Asha is the only pregnant one, said Dwight Scott, executive director of the Oklahoma City Zoo. The sisters have a tight bond from living together their whole lives, and separating them could be mentally devastating.

They’ll return to a $22.7 million new exhibit: Expedition Asia, which is under construction. Their new habitat will be roughly 10 times the size of their old yard, Scott said. The Asia exhibit also includes two habitats for bull elephants.

"The commitment we are making to elephant breeding and conservation is quite significant,” he said.

Even though Asha’s pregnancy and delivery will be a first for Oklahoma City, the staff will be prepared and ready, said Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino, director of veterinary services. Veterinarians at both zoos talk regularly about the pregnancy and make decisions together.

Zoo staff will monitor the elephants and put them on a 24-hour watch as delivery nears, D’Agostino said. But they’ll have a hands-off approach.

"If all goes according to plan,” she said, "our role is basically going to be to watch.”

But if things don’t go according to plan, D’Agostino and others are working out solutions to all kinds of scenarios and putting the protocol in writing ahead of time.

"We have every reason to believe this is going to be a successful pregnancy,” she said.

Ongoing Coverage: Elephant Nation