Today, August 12, is World Elephant Day, which was created to honor the large animal, spread awareness about the threats the species faces, and to support initiatives to ensure their survival.
As part of the celebration, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell, Ohio, announced yesterday that Phoebe, one of its six Asian elephants, is pregnant.
This will be the 31-year-old pachyderm’s fourth child. She had one calf before arriving at the Columbus Zoo in January 2002 and has had two others since her arrival.
Zookeepers set up a sign that said “Big Brother in Training” in the enclosure where her last child, 9-year-old Beco, stays, reported the Columbus Dispatch.
Phoebe may have to visit Maury Povich’s show to find out who the baby daddy is though — she was given the opportunity to conceive naturally with Hank, another Asian elephant at the zoo, and was also artificially inseminated with sperm from both Hank and an elephant from another zoo. After the newborn’s birth, a DNA test will be performed to find out who the true father is.
Currently, in her third trimester of a 22-month gestation period, Phoebe gets bimonthly ultrasounds to monitor the development of her calf. However, the ultrasounds will not be used to determine if she is having a boy or a girl, so it will be a surprise when she gives birth in mid to late December.
Closer to her due date, the pregnant pachyderm will be monitored closely by the zoo’s staff 24 hours a day to ensure a safe and healthy delivery.
He or she will be the first elephant born at the Columbus Zoo in almost 10 years. A typical newborn calf will be approximately three feet tall and will weigh between 200 and 300 pounds.
“All of us at the Columbus Zoo are thrilled to make this exciting announcement about Phoebe’s pregnancy,” said Columbus Zoo President/CEO Tom Stalf. “We are especially proud to contribute another individual to the Asian elephant population, which has been in decline in recent years, in order to protect this species’ future.”
According to the Columbus Zoo, who is actively involved in conservation initiatives, the Asian elephant is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species as endangered in their native range across southern and southeastern Asia. Various factors, including habitat loss/degradation, poaching, illegal trade, human-elephant conflict, and captivity issues, have contributed to their decline.
The World Elephant Day organization estimates that there are less than 40,000 Asian elephants remaining worldwide.