An Asian elephant at the Oregon Zoo is pregnant and expected to give birth in late 2020.
Chendra, a 26-year-old elephant, has been at the Oregon Zoo since 1999 when she was found orphaned in Borneo.
She’s currently about six months pregnant.
Chendra’s pregnancy was long hoped for by zoo staff and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, as Asian elephants are considered highly endangered.
At 26, Chendra’s on the outer age limit for pregnancy. It’s rare for elephants to conceive after their mid-20s, according to the zoo.
“We are so excited for Chendra,” said Bob Lee, who oversees the Oregon Zoo’s elephant area. “Asian elephants have evolved to live in social groups, and every member of the group has some role in raising young. We’re thrilled by the prospect that Chendra and the rest of the herd may get that opportunity in the future.”
The pregnancy news comes as the zoo is awaiting a routine tuberculosis test on Chendra. A definitive tuberculosis diagnosis takes up to eight weeks, according to zoo veterinarian Kelly Flaminio.
Flaminio said Chendra was reactive to a preliminary test last week.
“This test is not a reliable indicator of active TB, but it can be an early predictor, so we’re preparing for that outcome in order to be on the safe side,” Flaminio said. “If we need to treat her, it’s better to get as quick a jump on it as we can.”
The Oregon Zoo has successfully treated three other elephants for tuberculosis in the past. Treatment for pregnant humans with tuberculosis does not appear to affect pregnancy, according to the zoo, although less is known about the effects of treatment on elephants.
If Chendra does have to undergo treatment, Flaminio said, she’d be back with the herd before her baby is due.
The gestation period for elephants is about 22 months, the longest for any land mammal.