Here’s something Asian elephant Thi Hi Way will never forget: her 25-month pregnancy.
The 35-year-old became pregnant over two years ago with her seventh calf. The Chester Zoo, Thi Hi Way’s home, closely followed the elephant’s pregnancy.
According to the zoo, based on hormone tracking, keepers believed Thi Hi Way’s pregnancy failed and she went through a “natural resorption process,” because she missed her expected due date and began to return to her normal weight.
So the zoo was shocked when the mom gave birth to a healthy baby boy three months after her due date, racking up a 25-month gestation period — or about 766 days of pregnancy. The Asian elephant gestation period is typically 18-22 months.
The surprise calf, who has yet to be named, and his mom are both on their feet and doing well following the delivery.
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“We believed Thi had exceeded her normal gestation period, which we were monitoring closely. Her hormone levels, behavior and drop in weight gave us every indication that she may have been resorbing the calf – a natural process that some elephants experience,” Mike Jordan, Chester Zoo’s Collections Director, said in a statement. “However, nature always has that incredible ability to surprise you and that was certainly the case when we came in yesterday morning. The new youngster was up on his feet, suckling from mum and bonding closely with the rest of the family herd, including one-year-old calves, Indali and Aayu. It’s truly magnificent to witness.”
Asian elephants are listed as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Red List, so this new arrival is especially important. The pachyderm’s wild population is threatened by habitat loss, poaching and disease.