Baby Elephant Named ‘Baylor’ In Honor Of Research Team

June 2, 2010

The Houston Zoo’s new baby elephant was born May 4 and is named Baylor in honor of a Baylor College of Medicine research team that is working to reduce the threat of a potentially lethal elephant herpes virus.

After a pregnancy lasting almost 23 months, Shanti, a 19-year-old Asian elephant, delivered a healthy 348-pound male calf Tuesday morning at the Houston Zoo’s McNair Asian Elephant Habitat. The calf has been named Baylor by the Zoo’s elephant care team in recognition of the unprecedented and ongoing advances made by Baylor College of Medicine’s science team to significantly reduce the threat of a potentially lethal elephant herpes virus.

Shanti began exhibiting signs of labor around 10:30 p.m. on May 3.  Attended by the Houston Zoo’s elephant care team and assisted by the Zoo’s veterinary staff, Shanti delivered the baby at 9:32 a.m. on May 4.

“After months of preparation and tender loving care, the delivery was actually quick and easy for Shanti,” said Large Mammal Curator Daryl Hoffman.  “The keepers helped Baylor get to his feet and he was standing on his own within about two hours after his birth.”

“Baylor started nursing at 12:05 p.m. Tuesday,” said Hoffman.  “This little elephant has a very good appetite.  In the first 90 minutes after his first meal we saw him nurse more than 10 times.”

Immediately after the calf was born, the elephant care team and the Zoo’s veterinary staff performed a neonatal exam.

“We weighed and measured the calf and took a blood sample,” said Houston Zoo Director of Veterinary Services Dr. Joe Flanagan.  Elephant keepers will keep Shanti and Baylor under a 24-hour watch for the next few weeks.   The barn at the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat is temporarily closed to the public but will reopen after the elephant care team can see signs that Baylor has his “sea legs” and is comfortable in his new home.  Baylor is Shanti’s third calf.

The eight members of the Houston Zoo’s elephant care team, assisted by the Zoo’s veterinarians and veterinary staff and a core group of Zoo volunteers, have been monitoring Shanti closely for the past 11 months.  The routine intensified over the past 12 weeks with regular ultrasounds to monitor the baby’s health and blood work to gauge the mother’s progesterone level.   Throughout the delivery, Shanti was attended by the entire elephant care team and assisted by all four Zoo veterinarians and three of the Zoo hospital’s veterinary technicians.

More than 50 volunteers and Zoo staff began a seven-day a week, 24-hour birth watch in late February.  Utilizing a state of the art closed-circuit television system, the birth watch team observed and documented Shanti’s behavior.  When blood tests indicated Shanti’s progesterone level had fallen to a low baseline level, Zoo veterinarians and members of the elephant care team remained at the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat around the clock watching for indications that labor had begun.

Birth Preparation Time Line 2008-2010
Weekly progesterone monitoring begins June 20, 2008
Weekly ultrasounds begin Dec. 8, 2009
Birth watch volunteer training Feb. 10
Twice weekly progesterone monitoring begins Feb. 10
Birth watch begins with Zoo volunteers Feb. 20
Twice weekly ultrasounds begin Feb. 21
Daily progesterone monitoring begins Mar. 10
Ultrasound frequency increased to three times per week Mar. 10
Elephant keepers join birth watch schedule Mar. 10
InstantNewsWestu Staff

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