Expectant Asian Elephant, Thong Dee is doing well as she reaches the final months of her pregnancy.
The gestation period is a long 22 months for an Asian Elephant. During this time Thong Dee’s keepers have developed a special plan for her exercise and dietary needs in preparation for the birth. Like most human pregnancies, Elephants need to keep active and modify their food intake to help grow the offspring inside. Keepers are providing Thong Dee with higher protein hay, supplements and ample amounts of fruit, vegetables and tree branches.
To ensure Thong Dee continues to maintain her health and mobility, keepers work with Thong Dee every afternoon to do a planned routine with multiple exercises to keep her fit and healthy and to strengthen the muscles she will rely on during labour. This routine consists of a number of agility exercises including lifting and stacking tyres, stepping on to a raised area, stretching, raising legs into the air and lying down.
Going through her afternoon routine is also a great way for keepers to continue to build on their relationship with Thong Dee as they will be on hand to support her throughout her pregnancy, birth and raising of her calf. The connection keepers and elephants have is strong and continues to develop over time.
There are between 35,000 to 40,000 Asian Elephants left in the wild so this breeding program is very important to ensure a self-sustaining population in Australia and more importantly, to help secure a future for the species.
This is an exciting time for the zoo following the elephants arriving from Taronga Zoo early last year.
The elephant keepers are all very excited and can't wait to meet Thong Dee’s little calf in just over a couple of month’s time.
By Elephant Keeper, Josie Montgomery