PHOTOS: Mama elephant at Houston Zoo pregnant with third calf, expected to give birth this summer

HOUSTON — Well, isn’t this a HUGE announcement! Tess, an Asian elephant at the Houston Zoo, is expected to give birth to her third offspring this summer following a two-year pregnancy.

Thirty-five years old, Tess is one of nine Asian elephants at the zoo and mother is to 13-year-old Tucker and 7-year-old Tupelo.

Zoo officials are optimistic that this pregnancy is advancing normally and on schedule. Tess has received nearly two years of pre-natal care by the zoo’s elephant team and four veterinarians with regular ultrasounds and blood work.  The zoo team will continue to monitor Tess as she progresses into the labor process, indicated by a hormonal change in her daily blood analysis.

Tess will give birth in the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat cow barn under the supervision of her keepers and veterinary staff, the zoo said. After delivery, she and the calf will undergo post-natal exams and spend several days bonding behind the scenes.

“The elephant team looks forward to watching the pair share several key moments that will prepare them for their public debut. Nursing, communicating with mom, and hitting weight goals are important milestones for a growing baby elephant,” zoo officials said in a press release.

Last July, the zoo welcomed Joy, born weighing 305-pounds to mother Shanti. Joy now weighs nearly 1,300-pounds, and is thriving under the care of her mother, aunties and animal care team as she approaches her first birthday.

Just by visiting the Houston Zoo, guests help save baby elephants and their families in the wild. A portion of each zoo admission and membership goes straight to protecting wild elephants in Asia.

The Bornean elephant population has increased since the Houston Zoo started its wildlife saving support in 2007. The Houston Zoo provides funds for elephant conservationist, Nurzhafarina “Farina” Othman and her team in Asia, to put tracking collars on wild elephants. The collars are used to follow wild elephants, collecting valuable movement data that is used to inform future protection for the elephants as they travel through the forests. Farina also works with farmers that grow and produce palm oil, offering her guidance in elephant-friendly practices on their farm lands.