In honor of today, August 12, being World Elephant Day, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is thrilled to announce that Asian elephant, Asha, 25, is pregnant and due to give birth in February 2022! This will be Asha’s fourth calf born at the OKC Zoo. The Zoo’s bull elephant, Rex, 51, is the father. The pair are also parents to Achara, 5 and Kairavi, 1.
“We are extremely excited to have a calf on the way and look forward to this new addition joining our multigenerational herd, and watching as our elephants interact with a little one,” said Rachel Emory, OKC Zoo’s curator of elephants and rhinos. “Asian elephants are endangered so every pregnancy is valuable to the survival of this beloved animal as their wild counterparts continue to face extreme hardships in their native habitats.”
Though it’s early in the pregnancy, both Asha and her calf appear healthy, and the Zoo’s veterinary and animal care teams are optimistic everything will go well for this experienced mom. Asha has given birth to three female elephants including Achara born in 2014 and Kairavi born in 2018. In 2011, Asha gave birth to her first calf, Malee who at 4 years old died unexpectantly from the Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV). Malee was the first elephant born at the OKC Zoo.
As Asha’s pregnancy progresses, her daily routine including diet, exercise and training will stay consistent, and she will continue living with her family group. She is receiving exceptional care and attention from her caretakers who are working closely with the Zoo’s veterinary team to monitor both mom and calf through ongoing exams and ultrasounds. Asha voluntarily participates in these exams thorough positive reinforcement training making it a comfortable experience for her. Elephants have the longest pregnancy in the animal kingdom, lasting 22 months from conception to birth. Newborn elephants can weigh 200-300 pounds at birth.
The breeding recommendation for Rex and Asha was part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan®, a cooperative breeding and management program responsible for maintaining a genetically healthy population of Asian elephants in AZA-accredited zoos.
The OKC Zoo is committed to the conservation of Asian elephants and their habitat through its global partnerships. Asian elephants are endangered, facing unique challenges that threaten the species’ survival. Asian elephant populations in the wild have fallen below 40,000. The 13 nations that make up the natural habitat of Asian elephants contain the most dense human population on the planet and, as a result, vital habitat for elephants has been reduced by 85% in 40 years. Furthermore, Asian elephants are much more susceptible than African elephants to EEHV, a fast-moving virus with a 60% fatality rate.
Since 2010, the Zoo has contributed more than $400,000 to elephant-related conservation. In addition to supporting the Northern Rangelands Trust since 2009, which protects elephants and other native species in Kenya, the Zoo partnered with the Rainforest Trust to purchase and preserve 13,000 acres of forest in central Sumatra and 18,000 acres of forest in Borneo, both of which are natural habitats for Asian elephants. The Zoo has also supported a number of other elephant conservation projects, including the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Rakhine Yoma Elephant Range Project in Myanmar and International Elephant Foundation’s conservation efforts in Sumatra. These projects support boots-on-the-ground teams that work to protect forests, prevent poaching and habitat encroachment.
The OKC Zoo’s elephant family includes Asha, 25; Chandra, 24; Bamboo, 53; Kandula, 18; Rex, 51; Achara, 5; and Kairavi, 1 – plus, a new baby arriving in 2022!
August is Asian Elephant Awareness Month and wildlife enthusiasts around the world are encouraged to share their love of Asian elephants on social media with #TONSoflove. Fans are asked to hold their hands in the shape of a heart and tell why they love Asian elephants in their captions. Be sure to include #TONSoflove and tag @okczoo. All shared photos will be featured on the Zoo’s Facebook page.
For “tons” of updates about Asha’s pregnancy and the OKC Zoo’s entire elephant family, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Advance tickets are required for all guests and ZOOfriends members and can be made at http://www.okczoo.org/tickets. Daily attendance is limited to ensure adequate social distancing between guests. The OKC Zoo is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. now through Labor Day, Monday, September 7, 2020.
Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by purchasing a ZOOfriends membership when they visit the Zoo or online at ZOOfriends.org. To learn more about this event and other Zoo happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.