On August 1, the Saint Louis Zoo made a big announcement – Ellie, one of the Zoo’s Asian elephants, is pregnant!
This will be Ellie’s third calf. Her daughter, Maliha, is six years old. Her 16-year-old daughter, Rani, is the mother of the most recent elephant to be born at the Zoo – Kenzi, who arrived on June 24, 2011. Recent tests show that Ellie, now in her third trimester of pregnancy, is carrying a female calf.
The Zoo’s bull elephant, 19-year-old Raja, is the father. He was the first Asian elephant ever born at the Zoo in 1992, and this calf will be his fourth offspring. An elephant pregnancy lasts approximately 22 months. Ellie is due to deliver in the spring of 2013.
Ellie was last pregnant in 2010, but on July 8, 2010, she experienced an early pregnancy loss when she was 36 weeks pregnant.
“We are looking forward to this birth,” says the Saint Louis Zoo’s Curator of Mammals, Martha Fischer. “Ellie has proven to be such a caring mother and a doting grandmother, and we are optimistic that everything will go well. We have already begun to prepare for this. Ellie is following a customized exercise plan with stretches and exercises specifically designed to get her ready for the rigorous delivery. Once she arrives, the new calf will get lots of attention from Maliha and Jade. Both have a lot of practice helping to take care of Kenzi.”
A newborn elephant weighs approximately 250-350 pounds. Ellie has been receiving regular prenatal health checkups and ultrasound exams by the Zoo’s veterinary team.
Ellie lives with her three-generation family that includes Rani, Maliha, Jade, Kenzi and four other elephants that are part of their herd at the Zoo’s River’s Edge habitat. In 2012, the Zoo added Elephant Woods, a fourth naturalistic habitat for its elephant family – doubling the space for the Zoo’s herd. This secluded, wooded, peaceful area gives the elephants a place to browse on vegetation, dust in soil and sand piles, splash in mud wallows and relax among family.
Ellie and her daughter, Rani, arrived at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2001 from the Jacksonville Zoo, where Rani was born in 1996.
This elephant breeding was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP), a national cooperative breeding and management program.
There are fewer than 35,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, and they are facing extinction. Given the shrinking population of Asian elephants, the Saint Louis Zoo is committed to the conservation of this endangered species. The Zoo also supports the welfare and conservation of Asian elephants in Sumatra and other countries in Asia through the International Elephant Foundation, as well as the conservation of African elephants in Kenya.
Additionally, with Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) a common health issue for elephants both in zoos and in the wild, the Saint Louis Zoo has successfully followed the latest EEHV detection and testing protocols. For several years, the Zoo has joined other North American elephant care facilities in actively supporting an EEHV research effort that is being facilitated by the International Elephant Foundation.