Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium announced that they have not one but two pregnant elephants on Tuesday morning.
Dennis Pate, President, and CEO of Henry Doorly Zoo, made the announcement along with Dr. Sarah Woodhouse, the zoo’s Director of Animal Health, and Sarah Armstrong, Elephant Manager.
One elephant, Claire, has been intentionally pregnant for several months. But after a rollercoaster ride of hormones, ultrasounds, and tests, the zoo also confirmed that Kiki was pregnant.
Woodhouse said: “Claire’s pregnancy only happened in the book; on the other hand, Kiki’s was like a roller coaster ride, for the human but not for Kiki, she was fine through it all.”
The confirmation came after Kiki’s hormone levels rose again, creating anxiety over whether she was indeed pregnant.
“Both of their progesterone levels were high, but around March of this year, we saw a sharp drop in Kiki’s progesterone levels, close to pre-pregnancy levels, and that worried us a bit,” Woodhouse said. ” Woodhouse said.
The elephant team started performing weekly ultrasounds on Kiki in March.
“A few times, we could see some ribs or a spine, but I think the baby is a bit shy or elusive because we rarely get a chance to see it, and so we are not sure what’s going on in there,” Woodhouse said.
“In April/May, we noticed her progesterone went up again, but it was only about half of what it was at the start of the pregnancy, so we kept trying to do ultrasounds, looking for that fetus. We could see the fluid in the uterus, maybe a few ribs, but we can’t tell if the fetus is still viable and alive in it.”
Zoo officials said an elephant reproductive analyst was brought in and located a small foot and blood flow to the uterus. A month later, a zoo veterinarian confirmed the fetal heartbeat.
Both elephants, Claire and Kiki, are expected to give birth within days of each other in February 2022. This birth will mark the first and second time a baby elephant has been born at the Henry Doorly Zoo.
The zoo’s elephant staff is in prep mode as they get ready to welcome two new baby elephants, they are installing a new calf training area and exiting spaces to protect the young.
“Too much preparation,” Woodhouse and Armstrong said. “We have pages and pages of material that we have written about birth planning and health monitoring plans, and we have at least monthly elephant management meetings where we talk about everything and think of all the possible scenarios to get ready, and we still need more meetings, lots and lots of planning. ”
While the baby elephants will need a period of seclusion after birth to bond with their mothers and get used to the world, zoo officials say there will be plenty of “social media blasts” for the public to see their first moments.