It's springtime and the animal kingdom is feeling especially amorous. Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it— they fall in love.
The Asian elephants at the National Zoo, however, seem to have forgone the formalities of courtship and emotional attachment in favor of artificial insemination. (And so have the pandas, and cranes, and the list goes on.) Well, rather, it's their handlers who are doing their best to preserve the species in captivity as there are approximately 30,000 of these animals left in the wild. It just takes too darn long to wait for Cupid to strike a pair of pachyderms.
In 2001, Shanthi, a 33 year old elephant, successfully conceived via artificial insemination and gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, Kandula. Once again she has been selected as a prime candidate for motherhood and underwent insemination procedures on June 3 and 4. However, the process of impregnating an elephant is hardly a simple task. The elephant has to have a healthy reproductive tract and, by way of blood tests, scientists need to be able to determine when she's hormonally primed to begin ovulating. After insemination, this is all followed up by more blood tests and ultrasounds.
We'll be keeping a close watch on Shanthi for any developments and we'll be sure to keep you posted.