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Rozie the elephant is preparing for a fall birth.

Elephant Exercise Key to Health in Pregnancy

Rozie exercises with zookeeper Amber. Photo by Eliska Broes/NM BioPark Society.

May 22, 2013

If Rozie the Asian elephant took exercise classes, Pilates would be her favorite way to build strength and flexibility. She and the rest of the herd at the ABQ BioPark Zoo are part of a well-developed exercise and enrichment program that keeps the pachyderms healthy and happy. Zookeepers are paying extra close attention to Rozie's routine to keep her fit for a healthy pregnancy and to prepare for a successful birth.

"We have exercise sessions twice a day with leg lifts, squats and other calisthenics," said Rhonda Saiers, Elephant Manager. "The exercises are especially important for Rozie. When she is strong and at ideal weight, we know chances are much better that she'll have an uncomplicated and successful birth. Just as in humans, birth carries risks, but we're doing all we can to minimize those."

Elephant calves have the longest gestation period of any mammal at around 21 months. "Due dates" are difficult to predict, so zookeepers use a birth window for planning. In this case, Rozie could give birth anytime between August and November. If she carries this calf as long as she carried Daizy, the birth will fall in late September.

"Exercise is important for all of the elephants, and their participation is completely voluntary," said Saiers. "It gives Daizy a chance to develop the behaviors necessary to be proactive about her health care. For the older females, grandmother Alice and "great-aunt" Irene, exercise is key to quality of life as they age. It helps keep them strong, flexible and active. For our teenage bulls, Samson and Albert, exercise helps burn off some extra energy and keeps them interacting with us in a really positive way."

For more information, email [email protected] or dial 311 locally (505-768-2000).

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