LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Typical human pregnancies last around nine months. But for African elephants it’s more than double that!
Mikki the African elephant at the Louisville Zoo is in month 11 of her gestation period, which is typically 22-24 months - longer than any other mammal. She conceived last fall via artificial insemination, which is a common practice for pigs, cattle and horses. It was developed in elephants in the 1990s, according to zoo officials.
Guests were invited out to see Mikki’s ultrasound Thursday morning.
“Mikki’s going to turn her side, we’ll open some of those panels on the training wall and they’ll be able then to do the imaging that they need right there,” Steven Taylor with the Louisville Zoo told onlookers.
Zoo staff said the process usually takes around 10-15 minutes. Water is used instead of gel to get into the cracks of the elephant’s skin and provide good contact with the probe, which only penetrates about 30 centimeters.
“It’s not every day that we can find the baby by ultrasound - some days there’s gut or bowel in the way, intestines,” senior veterinarian Dr. Zoli Gyimesi said. “They have a huge G.I. tract - similar to a horse. So some days we strike out but today we did see a moving fetus in an amniotic sac.”
At this point, the fetus is about the size of a medium-seized watermelon, according to Dr. Gyimesi. A lot of growth is expected over the next 10 months and the calf should be in the 200-300 pound range at birth.
Officials said Mikki was excited to participate in the procedure. She was fed yummy treats while it was performed.