Houston Zoo Veterinarian Travels to Singapore to Save Elephants – Post #2

One of our expert veterinarians is currently in Singapore working with other wildlife professionals to save elephants from a deadly virus. Embark on this journey with her as she writes about the efforts being made to eradicate the virus and protect Asian elephants around the world.


Elephant Mating

Another elephant in the United Kingdom died of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) earlier this week, this brings the total in the US and the UK up to 5 young elephant deaths in 2015,which is 5 elephants too many. We’ve learned so much about this deadly disease and yet we have so much left to learn. The first case of EEHV was identified in Washington DC at the National  Zoo in 1995. A young female elephant, Kumari, died suddenly and had some findings on necropsy (that’s an autopsy for animals) that the zoo community had never seen before: bleeding and bruising in most of her organs, blue discoloration of the tongue, fluid build up around the heart.  Veterinarians and pathologists eventually identified a herpes virus as the cause of Kumari’s death, finding the virus present within the cells that lined her blood vessels. These are called  endothelial cells, so the virus was named elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus. I grew up in a suburb outside of Washington DC and went to the National Zoo regularly when I was younger. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to meet Kumari and her mother in person, shortly after she was born. I was in college when my parents told me she had died, and I didn’t realize that, 10 years later, the same disease would send me to places across the US as well as Copenhagen, Rotterdam, and Bangkok.elephant fam

I’m sitting at the gate here at IAH waiting to board my flight to Tokyo, then Singapore. It takes 24 hours of traveling to get to Singapore from Houston! I am looking forward to the start of the three day international EEHV workshop that is focusing on the Asian range countries where wild elephants still make their homes. I’ll be sharing more about the history of EEHV and my work in Singapore with other like minded veterinarians, researchers, conservationists and elephant specialists soon!!

Houston Zoo Veterinarian Travels to Singapore to Save Elephants – Post #1

One of our expert veterinarians is currently in Singapore working with other wildlife professionals to save elephants from a deadly virus. Embark on this journey with her as she writes about the efforts being made to eradicate the virus and protect Asian elephants around the world.


Asian Elephant Baylor-0489-1886

Baby elephants are dying in Sumatra. And Nepal. And Thailand. The cause is a virus called elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), which causes a devastating hemorrhagic disease not unlike Ebola in people. I have the unique opportunity to travel to Singapore next week to contribute to a workshop that will focus on EEHV in Asian elephants in their native countries. Over three days, I’ll be working with 40 other scientists (veterinarians, researchers, conservationists, and elephant care specialists) representing more than 10 Asian countries, Europe, and the United States, on how to monitor for EEHV, how to treat it, how to better understand it, and how to help get resources organized and set protocols in place to try to save baby elephants throughout Asia.

The Houston Zoo re-affirmed its commitment to fighting EEHV in 2009 when it began its partnership with the Baylor College of Medicine, a neighbor right across the street in the medical center. Since then, we’ve been working closely with Dr. Paul Ling, a human herpesvirus expert with BCM’s Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology. The synergy between Dr. Ling’s laboratory expertise and our zoo’s commitment to science and advanced elephant care has resulted in exponential forward strides in our understanding of this devastating virus. We still have so much to learn, but we are making progress. The most obvious evidence of this progress is that our two 5 year old elephants, Tupelo and Baylor, both survived EEHV infections in the summer and fall of 2014, not once but twice. Each. We here at the Houston Zoo are confident that it was our intensive EEHV monitoring protocols, and our constant vigilance and ability to act swiftly and aggressively, that got our two elephants through their potentially fatal infections.

And now, I have the humbling responsibility to take what we’ve learned here, from the Asian elephants under human care across North America, and share it with the myriad of veterinarians and conservationists across Asia who are doing their best to keep wild and orphaned elephants healthy. I look forward to sharing my journey with our many friends of the Houston Zoo over the next 2 weeks!!

 

 

Help Save Elephants in the Wild and Go Gray for World Elephant Day!

Calling all elephant enthusiasts! Did you know elephant population numbers are rapidly declining in the wild? Do you know there are ways YOU can help protect these magnificent animals in the wild? You can start by joining the more than one hundred zoos and thousands of individuals across the country on Wednesday, August 12 in celebrating World Elephant Day!

elephant fam

Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world and among the most intelligent animals on earth. Unfortunately, Asian elephants are also among the world’s most endangered species. At the turn of the 20th century, more than 100,000 Asian elephants roamed their native habitat. Today, approximately 40,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild. And this number continues to decline due to habitat loss, human-elephant conflict and poaching for their ivory tusks.

elephants-outside-playingHere at the Houston Zoo, we are committed to protecting animals outside of our Zoo gates, and elephants are in serious need of our support. In the past five years, the Houston Zoo has worked closely with partners in both Africa and Asia, funding over $500,000 in field conservation programs.

YOU can help, too! Simply by visiting the Houston Zoo, you help protect animals in the wild – a portion of your admission ticket goes directly to conservation efforts around the world. You can also attend special events throughout the year where registration fees are also donated to conservation efforts.

Check out the Houston Zoo website to learn more of how we and YOU can help elephants.

 

A great time to visit the Houston Zoo is World Elephant Day on Wednesday, August 12, 2015.

World Elephant Day Activities Include:

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

  • See and touch an elephant tooth
  • Find out more about the Houston Zoo’s Asian elephant herd: Thai, Methai, Shanti, Tess, Tucker, Tupelo, Baylor, & Duncan

10 a.m.

  • Daily Elephant Bath at The McNair Asian Elephant Barn

11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

  • Walking tour of the Asian elephant barn for those who Go Gray for World Elephant Day!

Wear gray on your Zoo visit and get an inside look at our state-of-the-art elephant barn, plus talk with our Zookeepers, while the elephants are outside playing in the yard.

Sabgina's Updates: The Asian Elephants at the Houston Zoo

Elephants are the largest mammals on the land. Two species are traditionally recognized, African elephants and Asian elephants. They are slightly different; African elephants have large ears shaped similar to the continent of Africa while Asian elephants have small and rounded ears. African elephants are taller with a shoulder height between 9-13 feet while Asian elephants reach 6.5 – 9 feet at their tallest point. African elephants weigh between 8,800 – 15,400 pounds while Asian elephants weigh 6,500 – 13,200 pounds. African elephants are found in Africa and Asian elephants are found in Asian countries. Elephants in captivity do not face the pressures of elephants in the wild such as drought, habitat loss, poaching and conflicts with people. Elephants in the Houston Zoo are not brought in from the wild for entertainment; they are brought in from other organizations or as rescues.

The Houston Zoo has Asian elephants. I was happy when my supervisor Renee Bumpus assigned me to join elephant zookeepers one day on their daily duties!! Oh my God!!!! What can I say other than awesome!! Not only did this excursion of elephant exhibit exceed my expectations, it went far and above my thinking!! I was warmly welcomed to the elephant exhibit by the zookeepers to join them on their daily work; it was one of the best experiences of my life! It was my first time to be near Asian elephants. My tour was led by Martina. Martina – Elephant Supervisor was fun, informative and she is obviously in love with her job, I learned a lot from her!

sabinga elephant

Keepers provide a lot of comfort to the elephants and work every day to build a relationship with the elephants. For humans, the most complex and important emotion is love, and we describe it in a multitude of ways. And from what I learn from Save the Elephants organization I am working with in Kenya, the African elephants society is a very female-based hierarchy, and the loyalty that a herd shows to a matriarch is intensely strong. They will follow her wherever she goes: perhaps that is a manifestation of love of a different sort, the same as what I saw at the elephant’s exhibits with Asian elephants, the powerful bond between (Shanti) a mother elephant, and (Duncan) her calf is an easy one for me to understand but for Martina conversation with elephants is more different and unique! Martina uses signs and voice to talk with an elephants and it seems like the elephants totally understand, it’s more complex than writing a computer program by using coding I think!! I do not know whether to put in English speaking society or what to call that peculiar communication between zoo elephant’s keepers and Asian elephants on exhibit.

Elephants in the Houston Zoo are well taken care of, the daily schedule was tight, 7 – 8:30 am was breakfast time, Houston Zoo keepers work hard to ensure that the elephants get breakfast and they balance the daily diet. Keepers have strictly followed diet timetables that contain daily diets, weekly diets and monthly diets. The level of care the keepers provide for the elephants results in great treatment and health of the elephants.

8:30 am – 10:00 am, bathing time, it’s a typical bath; every part of the body is scrubbed with soap before being rinsed.  Keepers use the bath time to visually examine every part of the animal’s bodies and clean their skin while also providing important interaction and training opportunities for the elephants. Foot care follows a daily schedule that guarantees that all four feet will receive a pad trim and nail file once a week.  The elephants are trained to accept and respond to this care. It’s the best treatment.

10:00 am to 11:00 am, cleaning of barns and elephants released out for exercise through play behaviors such as swimming and interaction with enrichment items like swinging a tire back and forth, digging in the ground with their feet, and standing on the exhibit fencing while stretching to reach hay and also walking helps the elephants maintain weight, muscle tone, and joint flexibility.

The illegal poaching of elephants for their ivory tusks has soared dramatically, causing a wild population of elephants to continue to decline in Africa and Asia. The Houston Zoo and other zoos are playing vital roles as stewards of an important part of the world’s heritage while supporting conservation in the wild.


 

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Sabinga collecting marine debris in Galveston

The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College onbehalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more!

Happy First Birthday Duncan!

Written by Andrea Pohlman

On February 7th, the Houston Zoo’s elephant care team celebrated Duncan’s 1st birthday! With help from the Zoo’s commissary staff, the elephants were treated to birthday cakes made with soaked grain and frosted in peanut butter.

Streamers and a banner were hung in the elephant exhibit, and a wrapped present was hung for Duncan to play with. Duncan’s birthday cake was decorated with kale, broccoli and a number “1” made out of strawberries.
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After their morning bath, Duncan and 24-year old mom Shanti entered the exhibit, and a large crowd of zoo guests began singing “Happy Birthday”. Shanti and Duncan paused to take in the sights, smells and sounds of the birthday celebration. Shanti pulled down streamers and waved them through the air as she and Duncan approached the cake.  They took their time and ate every last bite. Next was Duncan’s wrapped present hanging from a nearby pole. Shanti helped him unwrap it, and like all kids, Duncan was much more entertained by the wrapping paper than what was underneath of it. He used the paper to scratch between his legs and belly, stepped on it and even kicked it.

duncan-bday-resizeThe elephant care team ensured the rest of the herd enjoyed Duncan’s birthday as well. Tucker and Duncan’s big brother Baylor enjoyed a cake that featured a dragon on top made from carved fruits and vegetables.

At birth, Duncan weighed in at 385 pounds. Today he weighs close to 1,400 pounds (if you are keeping track, that is a 1,000 pound gain in a year!) Duncan is still nursing, but he also eats solid foods with the herd and during his daily training sessions with the elephant care team.

Duncan still spends much of his day keeping very close to his mom, Shanti. When he is feeling more independent, big sister Tupelo keeps a close eye on him to make sure he stays out of trouble.

Stop by and visit Duncan, Shanti, and all of our other elephants at the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat during their daily 10:00 AM bath at the elephant barn!
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New Houston Zoo Intern Joins us From Kenya!

The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College on behalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more! 

Sabinga writes:

Houston Zoo is the first zoo I ever been (my first time in the zoo), although I had heard of a Zoo before, what I learn for this few days at the Houston Zoo was beyond my thinking and expectation of the zoo.

People out there may think zoo animals are for entertainment, it is wrong, I learn it is a conservation practice. Me being an intern here I feel the same way I feel while working with my conservation organization, Save the Elephants in the wild.

Sabinga, a native Kenyan and employee of Save the Elephants joins the Houston Zoo intern family!
Sabinga, a native Kenyan and employee of Save the Elephants joins the Houston Zoo intern family!

I came to learn, excellent care Houston Zoo provide for animal mean at the same time committed to saving animals in the wild for example just by coming to the zoo, you have taken action to save wildlife. A portion of the entrance fee or membership goes to wildlife conservation, best thing I learnt!

Attending Wildlife Conservation Program Planning meeting in October shared by Renee, I learn Houston Zoo educate many of visitors each year about endangered species and related conservation issues, which is the same as what I do in my work of conserving elephants and I am hoping to learn more from the Zoo staff and share what I know with them as well.

Field conservation focuses on the long-term survival of species in natural ecosystems and habitats. Zoos participate in conservation projects that support studies of populations in the wild, species recovery efforts, veterinary care for wildlife, conservation awareness, ivory ban petitions, mobile phone recycling, and plastic among many more.

I learn also that Houston zoo believes in fostering a vibrant and diverse community, helping drive educational and cultural development across Houston benefits everyone and by participating in community initiatives, education program and make community to fill involve and be proud to the zoo as part of them.

Stay tuned to hear more from Sabinga in the coming months as his internship at the Houston Zoo unfolds!

Help Save Elephants in the Wild!

Asian elephants at the Houston Zoo

Post by Lauren St. Pierre

Calling all elephant enthusiasts! Did you know elephant population numbers are rapidly declining in the wild? Do you know there are ways YOU can help protect these magnificent animals in the wild? You can start by joining the more than one hundred Zoos and thousands of individuals across the country on Tuesday, August 12 in celebrating World Elephant Day!

Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world and among the most intelligent animals on earth. Unfortunately, Asian elephants are also among the world’s most endangered species. At the turn of the 20th century, more than 100,000 Asian elephants roamed their native habitat. Today, less than 50,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild. And this number continues to decline due to habitat loss, human-elephant conflict and poaching for their ivory tusks. Each day, 96 elephants are gunned down for their ivory.

Here at the Houston Zoo, we are committed to protecting animals outside of our zoo gates, and elephants are in serious need of our support. In the past five years, the Houston Zoo has worked closely with partners in both Africa and Asia, funding over $500,000 in field conservation programs.

YOU can help, too! Simply by visiting the Houston Zoo, you help protect animals in the wild – a portion of your admission ticket goes directly to conservation efforts around the world. You can also attend special events throughout the year, such as Elephant Open House, where registration fees are also donated to conservation efforts.

Check out the Houston Zoo’s website to learn more of how we and YOU can help elephants.

We can’t be the generation that allows elephants to disappear. Sign the petition at www.96elephants.org to support a moratorium on ivory products in America.

World Elephant Day Activities Include:

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

  • See and touch an elephant tooth
  • Create your own elephant mask
  • Sign our petition to ban the sale of ivory and ivory products
  • Find out more about the Houston Zoo’s Asian elephant herd: Thai, Methai, Shanti, Tess, Tucker, Tupelo, Baylor & Duncan

10 a.m. – Daily Elephant Bath at The McNair Asian Elephant Barn

1:30 p.m. – Meet the Keeper Talk at The McNair Asian Elephant Habitat

It's A Boy! – Baby Elephant Born Overnight at the Zoo

After a pregnancy lasting almost 23 months, Shanti, a 24 year old Asian elephant delivered a healthy 385 pound male calf shortly after 2:00 a.m. today at the Houston Zoo’s McNair Asian Elephant Habitat. “The elephant keepers have named the calf Duncan,” said Houston Zoo Large Mammal Curator Daryl Hoffman.  “They like the way it sounds,” he added.
baby ele1

 

Attended by the Houston Zoo’s elephant care team and assisted by the Zoo’s veterinary staff, Shanti delivered the baby at 2:13 a.m. today.  “After months of preparation and tender loving care, Shanti’s labor was very brief and the delivery was  quick and easy for her” said  Hoffman.  “The keepers helped the calf to his feet and he was standing on his own within about an hour after his birth,” he added.

“The calf started nursing at 9 this morning,” said Hoffman.  “In the first 90 minutes after his first meal we saw him nurse more than 15 times.  Duncan has a very good appetite,” added Hoffman. Thai, the baby’s father, is 48 years old.

Immediately after the calf was born, the elephant care team and the Zoo’s veterinary staff performed a neonatal exam.  “We weighed and measured the calf and took a blood sample.” said Houston Zoo Chief Veterinarian Dr. Joe Flanagan. “Duncan is almost 40 inches tall at the shoulder,” added Flanagan.

babyele2Elephant keepers will keep Shanti and Duncan under a 24-hour watch for the next few weeks.   The viewing windows in the barn at the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat are temporarily closed to the public. The windows will reopen to the public after the elephant care team has seen signs that Duncan is well-bonded with his mother and is comfortable in his new home, possibly next week. Duncan is Shanti’s fourth calf.

The 8 members of the Houston Zoo’s elephant care team, assisted by the Zoo’s 4 full time veterinarians and veterinary staff and a core group of Zoo volunteers have been monitoring Shanti closely for the past 11 months.  The routine intensified over the past 12 weeks with regular ultrasounds to monitor the baby’s health and blood work to gauge the mother’s progesterone level.   Through out the delivery, Shanti was attended by the entire elephant care team and assisted by Zoo veterinarians and Zoo hospital veterinary technicians.

More than 50 volunteers and Zoo staff began a seven-day a week overnight birth watch in late-November.  Utilizing a state of the art closed-circuit television system, the birth watch team observed and documented Shanti’s behavior.  When blood tests indicated Shanti’s progesterone level had fallen to a low baseline level, members of the elephant care team and veterinarians remained at the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat around the clock watching for indications that labor might begin at any moment.

 

Birth Preparation Time Line 2012 – 2014

 Approximate date of conception                                        March 23, 2012

Progesterone monitoring continues                                       March 23, 2012

Transabdominal ultrasounds begin (2X per month)               Sept. 10, 2013

Transrectal ultrasounds begin (2X per month)                       Oct. 25

Birth watch volunteer training                                                 Nov. 13

Biweekly progesterone monitoring begins                              Nov. 13

Birth watch begins with Zoo volunteers                                  Nov. 23

Biweekly ultrasounds begin                                                    Nov. 24

Daily progesterone monitoring begins                                    Dec. 11

Ultrasound frequency increased if required                           Dec. 11

Elephant keepers join birth watch schedule                           Dec. 11

 

About Asian Elephants

 Asian elephants are herbivores. At maturity, adult males can grow up to 10 feet tall (measured at the shoulders) and weigh up to 13,000 pounds.  Adult females grow up to eight and a half feet tall and will weigh less than males.  Amazingly, despite their weight, they are able to walk silently.  Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world and among  the most intelligent animals on earth.  Unfortunately, Asian elephants are also among  the world’s most endangered species.

Approximately 300 Asian elephants currently live in North American zoos; however, a number of factors are jeopardizing their sustainability:  an aging population, low birth rates and an insufficient number—less than 30—of breeding bulls (male elephants).  Also, if cows (female elephants), are not bred by age 25, their reproductive ability is immensely diminished.  In the wild, Asian elephants typically live about 45 years.

Fortunately for the endangered species, there has been resurgence among zoos to bolster breeding efforts to help stabilize the population.  The Houston Zoo’s Asian elephant breeding program falls under the auspices of the Elephant Species Survival Plan administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

At the turn of the 20th century, more than 100,000 Asian elephants roamed their native habitat.  Today, only 35,000 remain in the wild—scattered among pockets of Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, Indonesia and Vietnam.  Decades of war, an explosive human population growth and intensive agriculture continue to shrink their once abundant territories, leading to human-elephant conflict and leaving elephants prone to poaching and starvation.  Consequently, the gene pool for future generations of elephants is in a dire situation.

Sign on to protect Elephants

Did you know you can still buy ivory legally in the United States? Unfortunately it’s true, and the sale and demand of ivory is causing the African elephant population to drop at an alarming rate every single day. Here at the Houston Zoo, we are committed to protecting animals outside of our zoo gates, and African elephants are in serious need of our support.

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Our Houston community can help save elephants from extinction by simply telling our Texas representatives to ban the sale of ivory and ivory products in the United States. Join us in our fight to save elephants in the wild by adding your name and information to the initiative below. Signatures will be sent to our local congressman and representatives to urge them to ban the sale of ivory and ivory products in the United States. www.houstonzoo.org/elephant-petition.

Our goal is to collect 5,000 signatures by March 1, 2014, and we need YOUR help to get there!

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The Houston Zoo has joined The Wildlife Conservation Society as a partner in the recently launched 96 Elephants Campaign.  The Campaign has three goals – securing a U. S. moratorium on illegal ivory; reinforce the protection of African elephants; and inform the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis.

The Houston Zoo’s partnership with WCS expands the reach of the 96 Elephants Campaign to Texas.  The Campaign brings together multiple organizations to help raise awareness and drive action to save elephants.  The 96 Elephants Campaign is designed to educate and engage the public through a series of activities including online petitions and letter writing campaigns enhanced through local media.

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“The illegal ivory trade is pushing elephants to the brink of extinction and the Houston Zoo is proud to partner with WCS’s 96 Elephants Campaign,” said Houston Zoo Director Rick Barongi. “In 2013 alone 35,000 African elephants were killed for their ivory.  No species can withstand this kind of loss and survive,” he added.

About the 96 Elephants Campaign

96 Elephants is named for the number of elephants illegally killed each day for their ivory.  According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), there are currently 166 African elephants and 142 Asian elephants in the AZA Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP).  That means that there are more elephants killed in four days than are living in all of the AZA-accredited zoos combined.

What the 96 Elephants Campaign is Doing for Elephants

  • Bolsters elephant protection in the wild by increasing support for park guards, intelligence networks, and government operations in the last great protected areas for elephants throughout the Congo Basin and East Africa.
  • Directly engages the elephant poaching crisis with high-tech tools ranging from drones and remote cameras to specially trained sniffer dogs to find smuggled ivory in ports and trading centers.
  • In  2013, the Houston Zoo generated over $200,000 for elephant conservation programs including Save the Elephants’ efforts to reduce poaching in Kenya and support for local community efforts to reduce human-elephant conflict in Mozambique.

Thank you for joining the Houston Zoo in our effort to save elephants in the wild. We couldn’t do it without you!

Baby Elephant Birthwatch!

We’ve been eagerly awaiting the birth of an Asian elephant at the Zoo for many months now – Shanti, one of our resident elephants, is pregnant and expected to give birth soon. As part of the preparation process, we have trained a dedicated team of more than 75 volunteers to participate in an overnight Elephant Birth Watch program to help ensure the safety of Shanti and her calf.

Shanti and her previous calf, Baylor. She sure is "showing!"
Shanti and her previous calf, Baylor. She sure is “showing!”

Shanti is 23 years old, and she is mom to Baylor, who is now 3 years old. She is the tallest female elephant in the herd, and she can be identified right now by also being the widest…calves can weigh 250-300 pounds at birth, so it’s quite understandable!

Birth Watch volunteers and Elephant keeper staff watch Shanti via closed circuit cameras 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The volunteer commitment is a weekly 4-hour shift, and everyone involved goes through an extensive training to be sure they know Shanti’s normal behaviors and can detect signs of labor. If Shanti is thought to be going into labor or not acting normally, the volunteers call the Elephant staff right away.

At first, volunteers stay overnight and watch the cameras between 4 p.m. and 7:30 a.m., and Elephant staff took the daytime shifts. Because we are nearing Shanti’s expected due date, Elephant keepers now sleep in the barn overnight just in case labor starts so they can react quickly, and the volunteers monitor the cameras.

The barn in the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat where Shanti and the rest of the herd sleeps - it's also where birth watch takes place!
The barn in the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat where Shanti and the rest of the herd sleeps and birth watch takes place!

Shanti also has quite a bit to do in preparation for birth. She takes daily walks to be sure that she keeps up her exercise and doesn’t gain too much weight, and her progesterone levels are monitored daily at this point to see if there is a drop. When the level drops to near zero, it’s a pretty good predictor that labor will be happening between 2 and 15 days from that point.

Signs of labor that the volunteers are trained to detect include lifting of the tail, swatting with the tail, straining, restlessness, squatting, and increased vocalizations. The most obvious sign is if her water were to break, and at that point, the animal staff goes into action.

Stay tuned to the Houston Zoo blog for updates – the next one you likely will see is a baby calf announcement!

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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam.  Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years. 
 
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/

 

Comment on Facebook

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory

I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.

Is this the one that had the limp?

This was my daughters favorite critter at the Zoo. We always went to say hello to him before anyone else whenever we went. When she was 7 years old we sent a post out to out neighborhood on Halloween saying Paisley was asking for pocket change donations in lieu of candy for Halloween and all amounts would be donated to Kan thru the zoo. She raised over $40 in coins! I still have the letter from the zoo thanking her for her donation. He was a sweet boy and will be missed. 😔

I saw him limping about 2 weekends ago. The first time we walked by he was fine. When we walked by on the way out he was limping and moaning pretty loudly. I wondered what happened but I figured his keeper already knew or would find out shortly. Super Sad. He was always a lively one.

Dunno if the Zoo staff considered him a pet but he was certainly a family member, and because of that i offer this: RainbowBridge Author Unknown Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Jaguar habitat is in the Zoo or Jungle's? ??or is only entertainments for person's? ??$$$$$$$!.Sorry animals the person's don't love you ..

Thank you Houston Zoo for taking such good care of him and all the animals! I've been going to this zoo since I was little bitty. I always enjoy it.

Aww. When interning in the carnivore dept he was one of my faves. So smart! Ashley remember when Angie was teaching him to do the moonwalk after Michael Jackson passed?

Aww I’m so sorry for the loss, I’ve seen him many times, he was absolutely gorgeous! I’m glad that you guys were able to make him comfortable, sometimes the best thing we can do is let them be at peace. Will miss this handsome guy; play hard at the Rainbow Bridge friend, day hi to my cat, Junior for me!! Much love to the HZI staff!!

Jaguars are one of my favorite and he seems like a sweet boy. I'm so sad but I'm happy he can be painless and be free now. RIP❤️

Beautiful jaguar ....so grateful for the Houston Zoo keepers and veterinary team that gave their time and efforts to share this awesome jaguar with us for so many years.

Thank you for doing what was right and kind for Kan Balam even though it was hard and painful for you. That’s true love for an animal. ❤️

What a great long life he lived because of his excellent care at the zoo Thoughts go out to his keepers and the entire Houston Zoo staff

Thank you to you and your staff for the years of quality care given this magnificant creature.

Sending love to the keepers that are broken hearted right now. And thank you for all the care you’ve given.

RIP Kan Balam. You have given the visitors so much pleasure just watching you over these years. You were taken care of by top notch professional handlers, etc.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3

I am soo sorry for the loss of this handsome fella Kan Balam. May he rest in peace and run free or any pain over the rainbow bridge.. My heart and prayers go out to each and every one of the staff at the Zoo.

Aww, so very sorry for your loss, Houston. Condolences to his keepers and all who loved him. ((((Lorie Fortner)))) He surely lived a long life with the great care he received at Houston.

Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs

He was well-cared for and most of all well-loved. My heartfelt condolences to those missing Kan B as well as me. What an amazing ambassador for his kind. What a beautiful old gentleman. Thank you for loving him into old age and giving him peace.

So sorry to the keeping staff for your loss i cant imagine how youre feeling :( his old age is a testimony to the amazing care he received

I will miss him. The last time I saw him he looked tired, and it appeared his foot was bothering him.

Sad to hear of this. Thanks for taking such good and compassionate care for him and the other animals.

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Mike DePope

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