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Indianapolis Zoo expecting new baby elephant

Posted at 8:33 AM, Mar 06, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Zoo announced their 16-year-old African elephant, Zahara, is pregnant. She is currently 15-months along in her 22-month pregnancy and is set to give birth in October.

According to the zoo, the calf will be the first elephant in the world to be born through artificial insemination to a mother who was also born through the same procedure.

Niki Kowalski, assistant curator of elephants, says the baby's heartbeat is strong and both mom and baby are doing well.

The Indianapolis Zoo is known for its work with African elephant reproduction. The first and second elephants in the world to be born through artificial insemination were at the Indianapolis Zoo in 2000.

The baby's dad is either Cali, who lives at the Omaha Zoo, or Titan, who lives at the Sedgwick County (Kansas) Zoo. DNA testing will be done to determine who the father is.

The zoo says multi-generational herds are important in order to educate Zoo visitors about elephant behavior and their survival in the wild.

“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,” President & CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, Dr. Rob Shumaker, said. “We want to inspire every Zoo visitor to actively support a future where these magnificent animals thrive.”

The calf will be a third generation in the herd at the zoo. Zahara is the youngest elephant in the Zoo’s herd of five elephants. Zahara’s mother, Ivory is 41-years-old.

Zahara has a team of zookeepers and veterinary staff monitoring her weight, diet, exercise and blood values during her pregnancy. According to the zoo, it conducts regular ultrasound examinations to monitor the health and development of the fetus.

Zahara's ultrasound
An ultrasound of Zahara's fetus, showing its spine and rib shadows.

“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,” Dr. Melissa Fayette, Indianapolis Zoo Associate Veterinarian, said.

Aside from some more daily walks, staff say Zahara is maintaining her normal schedu