A first-of-its-kind zoo elephant birth to make history

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Calf due in October will be first elephant to be born through artificial insemination to a mother who was also born through this process

The Indianapolis Zoo has announced that 16-year-old African elephant Zahara is pregnant. Her calf will be the first elephant in the world (African or Asian) to be born through artificial insemination to a mother who was also born through the same procedure.

Zahara the African elephant and soon-to-be mother (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Zoo).

Zahara the African elephant and soon-to-be mother (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Zoo).

The Indianapolis Zoo is renowned for its successful efforts with African elephant reproduction. In fact, according to an organizational release,1 the first- and second-ever African elephants to be conceived and successfully born through artificial insemination were at the zoo in 2000.

“African elephants face a number of threats to their survival. Key among these is habitat loss leading to conflict with humans. Poaching for Ivory and other body parts remains a very serious issue. These pressures threaten the long-term survival of elephants in the wild,” said Rob Shumaker, PhD, president & CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, in the release.1 “We want to inspire every Zoo visitor to actively support a future where these magnificent animals thrive.”

Zahara is 15-months along in her 22-month pregnancy, and her calf is due in early October. The calf will complete a third generation in the herd with a current total of 5 members. Zahara’s mother is Ivory, who is 41 years old, and Zahara is currently the youngest elephant.

The Indianapolis Zoo animal care team is monitoring Zahara’s weight, diet, exercise, and blood values while the veterinary team conducts regular ultrasound examinations to monitor the health and development of the fetus.

“We are pleased that Zahara’s pregnancy appears to be progressing normally as the calf continues to grow at a healthy rate with a consistent strong heartbeat on ultrasound,” added Melissa Fayette, DVM, Indianapolis Zoo associate veterinarian, in the release.1

When visitors go to the zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, they contribute to the fight against poaching and helping to save elephants. Visitors help make possible the field conservation, research, habitat restoration, reduction of human-elephant conflicts, and community-based programs needed to protect wild populations.

Reference

Zoo announces elephant pregnancy. News release. Indianapolis Zoo. March 6, 2023. Accessed March 7, 2023. https://www.indianapoliszoo.com/zoo-announces-elephant-pregnancy

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