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Zoo surprised with second elephant pregnancy

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 2:16 PM EDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT/Gray News) – The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha has announced that they have not only one but two pregnant elephants.

According to WOWT, zoo officials have known for several months that Claire is pregnant. But after a rollercoaster ride of hormones, ultrasounds and tests, the zoo also confirmed that Kiki is pregnant, too.

Both elephants, Claire and Kiki, are expected to be due within days of each other in February 2022. These births will mark the first and second time a baby elephant has ever been born at Henry Doorly Zoo.

“Claire’s pregnancy has just been by the book. Kiki’s on the other hand, has been a bit of a roller coaster, for the humans, not for Kiki. She’s been just fine through it all,” said Dr. Sarah Woodhouse, the zoo’s director of Animal Health.

The confirmation came after Kiki’s hormone levels bounced back and forth, creating worry about whether or not she was actually pregnant.

“Both their progesterone levels stayed high, but about March this year, we saw a really steep drop in Kiki’s progesterone, almost to pre-pregnancy levels, and that got us a little bit worried,” Woodhouse said.

The elephant team began performing weekly ultrasounds on Kiki during March.

“A couple of times we saw maybe some ribs or a spine, but I think the baby is a little bit shy or elusive because we hardly ever got a chance to see it and so we just weren’t sure what was going on in there,” Woodhouse explained.

“In April/May we noticed her progesterone came back up but only to about half the level it was at the beginning of the pregnancy, so we kept trying to do ultrasounds, looking for that fetus. We could see fluid in the uterus, maybe a few ribs, but we just couldn’t get a read on whether that fetus was still viable and alive in there.”

Zoo officials said an elephant reproductive analyst was brought in and located one little foot and blood flow to the uterus. The fetus’ heartbeat was then confirmed a month later by a zoo veterinarian.

The zoo’s elephant staff is in preparation mode. As they get ready for two new baby elephants, they’re installing a new calf training area and are baby-proofing escapable gaps.

“So much preparation,” Woodhouse said. “We have pages and pages of documents that we have written on the birth plan and health monitoring plan, and we have at least monthly elephant management meetings where we talk about all these things and think of every possible contingency to get ready for, and we still need more meetings, so lots and lots of planning.”

While the elephants will need secluded time after their births to bond with their mother and get acclimated to the world, zoo officials say there will be plenty of “social media blasts” for the public to see the babies’ first moments.

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