Privacy please, there's a baby elephant on the way

Privacy please, there's a baby elephant on the way

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Veterinarians at the Oregon Zoo are making the final preparations for the arrival of the newest baby elephant - and that includes giving the expectant mother a little privacy.

We're told that changes in Rose-Tu's body signify the little one should be here in the next few days and visitors are being kept away so she does not get stressed out. The elephant room is now closed, although you can still see Packy and the others outside.

At this point, no one knows whether the new arrival will be a boy or a girl. Typically with humans, you find out after 22 weeks and Rose-Tu is now in her 22nd month.

But the zoo's elephant curator says the test they do, which checks the mother's testosterone level, isn't quite reliable and they are not saying what it showed. When Samudra was born, for example, the test was wrong - it said he would be a girl.

"We have a guess but we're not saying," said Zoo Director Kim Smith. "We're superstitious because it was wrong last time. We're hoping for a certain outcome so we'll see if we're right and let you know when it happens."

This is Rose-Tu's second pregnancy. You might remember that when she gave birth to Samudra, she tried to trample him. The zoo said she was scared and didn't understand what was happening.

This time around, they are certain she will do great.

"With this pregnancy she has so much more information about what's going on," said Elephant Curator Bob Lee. "She'll understand what's going on and that's one of the reasons we have the other elephants around so they can see it and experience it. So when they go through a pregnancy, they will realize what's going on as well."

Samudra has had it good for the last four years. He is doted on not only by his mother, but his aunties. Now, curators will be learning how to deal with a toddler who has to share the attention.

The zoo will be picking five names for the baby that you can vote on. We'll let you know when the voting starts. All the names will be based on Asian cultures and countries.

Bringing up Baby (courtesy of the Oregon Zoo)

When a baby is born, the mother's instincts should respond immediately. She may try to help the calf to its feet (with her trunk or foot). It's uncommon, but not unheard of, for elephants to actually lift the calf to its feet. In the wild, there is a constant threat from predators. A calf that doesn't get to its feet quickly is at risk of being attacked by a predator.

An infant elephant at birth usually weighs between 180 and 330 pounds with the average at about 220 pounds. Rose-Tu weighed 180 pounds upon delivery, and Samudra weighed 286 pounds.

A newborn is an important addition to the herd. Chendra and Sung-Surin served as 'aunties' to Samudra, helping to look after him. Initially, the father, Tusko, will not interact with the baby. Eventually, he will be introduced as the calf continues to interact with the rest of the herd.

Nursing is an important part of an infant's growth and development. After an expected weight loss in the first week, calves should gain about two pounds per day. A baby elephant can nurse for up to five years, and will begin supplementing its mother's milk with solid food after 10 or 12 months. A calf learns to eat solid foods by imitating other elephants as he (or she) gets older.

KATU Reporter Valerie Hurst shows how many liters of 'milk' it takes to feed a baby elephant per day. KATU photo.