HOUSTON — Big, big news from the Houston Zoo: mother and daughter elephants are pregnant at the same time.
Asian elephants Tess and Tupelo will give birth in the spring within a few weeks of each other.
Tupelo, the 10-year-old daughter, is due first.
She will be a first-time mother thanks to artificial insemination. They didn’t breed her because she’s related to all the male elephants at the zoo.
This will be the fourth calf for 37-year-old Tess. Along with Tupelo, she is mom to 15-year-old Tucker and 2-year-old Tilly.
Her baby daddy is a 55-year-old fellow named Thailand.
Zoo veterinarians have monitored Tess and Tupelo with regular ultrasounds and bloodwork.
Elephants are pregnant for two years and the vets say everything is advancing normally and on schedule.
After delivery, the new mothers and their calves will spend several days bonding behind the scenes.
The elephant team looks forward to watching them 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.
Over the next several years, the zoo animal care team will watch the young elephants for signs of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV). EEHV is the most devastating viral disease in elephants worldwide. It occurs in elephants in the wild as well as those in human care such as in sanctuaries and zoos.
The zoo’s veterinarians and elephant care team established a research collaboration in 2009 with herpes virologist Dr. Paul Ling at Baylor College of Medicine.
The Houston Zoo’s EEHV testing methods, treatment protocols, and experience serve as a global elephant care resource and have contributed to saving elephant calves around the world.
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 to protecting wild elephants in Asia.
For updates on Tupelo and Tess’s pregnancies, visit www.houstonzoo.org.