Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Extraordinary ultrasound of George the baby elephant curled up inside his mother's womb


Moments after the birth: The baby Asiatic Elephant George is seen here just minutes after his mum Karihma gave birth at Whipsnade zoo

This amazing photograph shows an embryonic elephant in the womb - with its tiny trunk clearly visible.

The incredible image of George, Whipsnade Zoo's latest pachyderm arrival, was captured 19 months before he was born.

Staff used three-dimensional ultrasound scans and tiny cameras to film the pregnancy process from conception to birth.

There's the tiny trunk! Staff carried out an ultrasound scan of the elephant embryo at approximately 3 months into its 22-month pregnancy

Seen here at about three months into the 22-month pregnancy, the elephant embryo is unmistakeable.

Ultrasound scans are carried out throughout, much like with humans, to monitor the health and well-being of mum and baby.

A year and a half later George's amazing birth was filmed and viewers can witness the moment in ITV1's The Zoo at 8pm tomorrow night, Tuesday 16 November.

Easy does it: Staff at the zoo clean the newborn baby elephant, which already weighs more than an adult male

Four days old and counting: Little George meets his older sister, Donna while mum Karishma stays close by. The little fellow looks a little unsure about things in his brand new world

George was 124 kilograms when he was born - which is more than a human adult - and now at six months old he weighs around 60 stone.

He is a boisterous member of the herd of Asian elephants at the Zoo in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, where he loves to play in the 7-acre paddock with his big sister Donna.
Zoo spokeswoman Rebecca Smith said: 'We have a team come over from Berlin to take ultrasound scans of all our pregnant elephants.

'It is normal procedure but the clarity of the images varies of course. But this is one of the clearest we have ever seen with the trunk so visible. It is unmistakeably an elephant!'

Every birth of an elephant, including in zoos, is very important for species conservation because both African and Asian elephants are threatened by extinction.

Every inch a proud mother: Karishma, mother of 6-month-old George the elephant enjoys a mid morning snack

Six months old now...and 60 stone: George is a friendly elephant and loves his keeper, Rob Conachie, one of the devoted zoo staff who has become very close to the animals in his care

The birth itself drags on for two nights. During the first night labour pains come on the cow elephant and the calf goes to its final birth position.

During the second night the actual birth is introduced with second stage contractions and goes on until the early morning hours.

ITV spokesperson Naomi Phillipson said: 'I'm not aware of an elephant birth being shown on prime time TV in such detail before.

'It's quite something and a big event for the zoo because it's not something that happens very often. Any birth is captivity is important - particularly for reasons of conservation.

'It's the first time Whipsnade have allowed cameras into the zoo for about ten years so we feel very privileged.'

The series follows the emotionally intense, and at times heartbreaking experiences, of the devoted keepers who inevitably become very close to the animals in their care.

source: dailymail

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