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Houston Zoo Gives Birth To 385 Pounds of Big Big Love!

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By Jacob Calle

It’s a boy! And what a big boy he is! Shanti, our 23 year old female Asian elephant at the Houston Zoo gave birth to her 4th calf, Duncan! Shanti has been monitered for the past 11 months and has had late pregnancies in the past so this was no surprise as the Houston Zoo’s elephant care team and veterinary staff has prepared the process as well as 75 volunteers who took shifts during the overnight Elephant Birth Watch program to help ensure the safety of Shanti and her calf.

The Birth Watch volunteers and elephant keeper staff went through extensive training to learn the normal behaviors of Shanti and how to detect signs of labor such as one being, lifting her tail. Like humans, elephants must prepare the birth as well. She walks daily around the yard so that she does not gain that preggo weight that human moms dread after birth. Her progesterone levels are monitered daily to see if it drops. 7 February 2014 at 2:13am Duncan shined after being inside the womb for nearly two years. “After months of preparation and tender loving care, Shanti’s labor was very brief and the delivery was quick and easy for her.”, says Daryl Hoffman, the Houston Zoo’s large mammal curator. “The calf started nursing at 9 this morning.”, adds Hoffman.

At 385 pounds, Duncan will need all the nursing that he can get to catch up with his older brother Baylor, who is 3 years old. Baylor was named after Baylor College School of Medicine, who dedicated many hours on elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) which is an elephant herpesvirus that is contracted in the wild and in captivity. Mac, the Houston Zoo’s playful calf past away at 2 years old in 2008. Today, he would have been 8.

As for Duncan, just under 48 hours old and looking quite healthy. “In the first 90 minutes after his first meal we saw him nurse more than 15 times. Duncan has a very good apetite.”, says Hoffman. Just after the calf was born the zoo’s veterinary staff performed a neonatal exam. “We weighed and measured the calf and took a blood sample.”, says Houston Zoo’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Joe Flannagan. “Duncan is almost 40 inches at the shoulder.”, adds Flannagan. The elephant keepers will have the new calf and his mother under a 24 hour surveillance for the next few weeks to monitor health and behavior. While Houston is anxious to see our 385 pounds of love, the elephant barn will be temporarily closed to the public and will reopen once the keepers have seen signs that assure a healthy baby pachyderm and good behavior with the herd as they are slowly introduced to Duncan.

Duncan isn’t the only newborn at the Houston Zoo! 4 February at 1pm on Tuesday Tyra, a giraffe, delivered a healthy male calf. 30 January, a baby Nyala was born and can now be seen in the hoofstock area. On New Year’s Eve day a De Brazza’s Guenon was also born along with a baby bongo, pygmy marmosets, pygmy goats, and more!For more information on Duncan and the zooborns here at the Houston Zoo visit www.houstonzoo.org