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Expectant elephants

2 July 2012

Asian Elephant Num-Oi is due to give birth in December or January, and this morning Melbourne Zoo Director Kevin Tanner has announced that Mali's mother Dokkoon is also pregnant.

Dokkoon became the first of her endangered species to give birth at Melbourne Zoo when Mali was born in January 2010.

Kevin Tanner says that Dokkoon has now become the first elephant in Australia to achieve a second pregnancy.

He said that "If all goes smoothly during the 22-month pregnancy, Dokkoon will give birth to a little brother or sister for Mali in November 2013. That calf will be the fourth calf to be born at Melbourne Zoo."

Melbourne Zoo and Taronga Zoo established a Regional Cooperative Conservation Breeding Program for this endangered species when elephants arrived from Thailand in November 2006.

The Director also announced this morning that the two zoos have donated $100,000 to help wild elephants in Thailand, supporting efforts to reduce human/elephant conflict in the Kui Buri National Park.

Kevin Tanner says that "having two pregnant elephants is very important to the future of the breeding program, so that Mali and Ongard can be part of a growing family, seeing calves born and how the cows care for them."

The aim of the breeding program is to create an insurance population of this critically endangered species. Populations are under increasing threat as their rainforest habitat continues to disappear, with deforestation and the establishment of palm oil plantations the largest single threat to their survival.

Melbourne Zoo bull Bong Su is the father in all four instances, and the pregnancies were achieved via artificial insemination (AI). He is also the father of one of the three calves already born at Taronga Zoo.

To achieve these pregnancies, the Zoo's Veterinarians, Curator, and Keepers all worked with scientists from the Berlin Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, regarded as the world's leading experts in elephant reproduction.