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Zoo Partners With TriCore Reference Laboratories for Elephant Prenatal Care

Regular blood draws help ensure calf and mom are healthy.

March 15, 2018 - There's a baby elephant on the way and that means the ABQ BioPark is keeping a close eye on mother Rozie. 

Thanks to a partnership with TriCore Reference Laboratories in Albuquerque, Zoo staff are beginning to monitor Rozie's progesterone levels to predict when she is getting close to beginning labor. The information will serve as a valuable tool for helping monitor the expectant mother and calf.

ABQ BioPark staff will draw blood three times per week. Those blood samples will then be sent to TriCore's main laboratory in Albuquerque. 

TriCore's laboratory scientists will measure Rozie's progesterone level using sophisticated equipment. Because TriCore is a local laboratory, results will be available the same day. When Rozie's progesterone level drops to "baseline," that will give staff a 12-14 day warning as to when she is expected to begin labor.

"That warning is why it's important to us to run this test," said Gwen Dragoo, head veterinary technician at the ABQ BioPark. "Though Rozie will be observed by staff and volunteers around the clock from the beginning of her birth window to catch any medical concerns that might occur prior to labor, knowing what her progesterone is doing narrows our focus and gives us a heads up that labor will be starting in less than two weeks."

Dragoo added, "When the progesterone drops to baseline, we'll also begin ultrasound assessment more often to monitor the health and position of the calf, which will give us additional information on Rozie's status." 

"We are delighted to be able to participate in Rozie's prenatal care," said Dr. David Grenache, chief scientific officer at TriCore. "Laboratory tests have a vital impact on how patients of all types are diagnosed, treated and managed. Like others in the community, we are excited about Albuquerque's soon-to-be new resident."

This is Rozie's third pregnancy, including 4-year-old Jazmine, who also calls the ABQ BioPark home. 

In addition to the blood draws, the ABQ BioPark elephant staff are taking a variety of measures to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery for mom and baby. This includes regular ultrasounds, proper diet to keep Rozie at a healthy weight and an exercise regimen that focuses on strength, endurance and flexibility.

The BioPark is designated as an Elephant Breeding Facility by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Elephant Species Survival Plan.