Trunkline Magazine (Louisville Zoo) June 2018 | Page 10

An ENORMOUS Announcement Written by Heather Dishon, Communications Coordinator Photos by Kyle Shepherd, Media Relations Manager In the last issue of Trunkline, you learned about the dedicated staff and extra-special care pro- vided to two of the Zoo’s most popular elephant ambassadors: African elephant Mikki and Asian elephant Punch. We also discussed the planning in place to prepare for the addition of a future el- ephant calf. If you missed read- ing it, you can find the article at The Louisville Zoo is thrilled to announce that 32-year-old African elephant Mikki is pregnant. An ultrasound exam performed by the Zoo’s veterinary staff in early March confirmed the pregnancy and recent hormone testing verified that the pregnancy is still viable at the important 26-week mark. The birth of an elephant in hu- man care is still a relatively rare event. Every expectant mother— whether elephant or human—needs excellent health care before giving birth to safeguard the health of mother and infant. “We are very excited about Mikki’s pregnancy,” said Louisville Zoo Director John Walczak. “Along with the expert, first-class attention and health care Mikki already re- ceives, our animal care staff will also provide specialized prenatal care.” This care includes Mikki’s weight being carefully monitored by elephant staff. It’s important that Mikki does not gain a great deal of weight during pregnancy or the calf may be too big at birth. A baby elephant can weigh 250 – 300 pounds! Right now, the fetus is about the size of a watermelon — a small trunk, legs and tail, and tiny ears are discernible at this stage of development. Keepers already work with both the elephants daily, training them through operant conditioning utilizing positive reinforcement to voluntarily participate in their health care routine. This includes preparing for veterinary procedures like hav- ing blood taken to check hormone levels, undergoing an ultrasound or stepping on a scale to be weighed – this training will be important 10 • Louisville Zoo Trunkline • Summer 2018 throughout Mikki’s pregnancy. As you visit, you may see the keepers walking along the outside of the elephant exhibit barrier, motioning and talking to Mikki to encourage her to walk through the WEIGHING MIKKI Above: Mikki is weighed by scale — 8,875 pounds!