Houston Zoo prepares for birth of new elephant

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HOUSTON, TX- Does it seem like babies keep getting bigger and bigger? Last March, one British baby came out weighing more than 15 pounds! And a little — (make that big) girl was born in Spain in August weighing nearly 14 pounds.

But here in Houston, we got ’em all beat! One mother here is expecting a baby that will probably tip the scales right around 350 pounds!

That’s right — Shanti, one of the Asian elephants at the Houston Zoo, is expecting a new baby.

Daryl Hoffman, curator of large mammals at the zoo, explains, “Asian elephants like Shanti — their gestation period is about 22 months. She tends to go a little long. Just like people, every pregnancy is a little different.”

Her last baby was little Baylor back in 2010. He was born 348 pounds and has grown to about 3000, though he’s still breast feeding.

Jack Pine, one of th elephant keepers, says that will probably change soon. “He can cry for milk now, [but] if there’s a [new] little baby crying for milk, Shanti’s going to be much more receptive to taking care of that baby.”

And what’s an 8000-pound expectant elephant mother crave? “She’ll actually do just about anything for a bulb of garlic,” says Jack, “Smells absolutely wonderful for the rest of the day!”

Starting next month, zoo volunteers will be on baby watch. “They’re gonna come in, they’re gonna make home here and for 24 hours a day, we’re gonna have surveillance on the elephants,” says Hoffman, “We’re gonna be able to have somebody with eyes on them all the time.”

Daily bloood samples will be taken starting in December to test Shanti’s progesterone. That hormone takes a steep dive three to five days before an elephant delivers — something the zoo expects will happen sometime after New Year’s. Still, Hoffman says, “All we can do is be prepared and wait for her to what she has to do.”

And step outta the way when that big baby drops!