Monday, March 02, 2009

Harry Peachey Assistant Curator

Dr. Doreen Harris scans Phoebe's belly as tech Lisa Bigelow and assistant curator Harry Peachey view the monitor. Aaron Kazmierczak keeps Phoebe calm. Picture credit Chris Russell The Columbus Dispatch - Columbus, OH,
PEACHEY said that only a handful of Asian elephants are born in North American zoos each year, and sometimes none at all. About a third die before age 10. So each birth causes quite a stir. "We've already started getting e-mails from people who want to know when she's delivering," Peachey said late last week as Phoebe strolled around her indoor living area."People are fascinated with elephants." As soon as Phoebe's progesterone reaches a certain level, she'll be on a "mommy cam" so volunteers can watch her behavior 24 hours a day and alert keepers if they see signs of labor such as leg-stretching, lying down and getting up, lifting her tail and swatting her rear legs with her trunk. When veterinarians think delivery is a few days away, Peachey and several other keepers will start sleeping just outside the elephant quarters. "We're fairly certain the birth will be in the early morning," Peachey said. Usually, it happens between 2 and 4 a.m., he said. And it's usually quick: her hard labor with calf Bohdi, born in 2004, was just 20 minutes. This calf will be the third for Phoebe, who was born in 1987; she had her first at another zoo. Bohdi also is still at the Columbus zoo, as is his father, Coco. "She's young and healthy; we can expect this birth to go the same as the others," Peachey said. "It might very well be that we could leave her and come back, and there would be a baby, but that would be irresponsible of us." Click to read more by Kathy Lynn Gray. The Columbus Dispatch - Columbus, OH, USA