Portland, Ore. — 26-year-old Asian elephant Chendra is getting around the clock care after the Oregon Zoo announced she suffered a miscarriage.
“We knew this was a possibility, but that doesn’t make it any easier,” said Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo elephant program. “We were all so excited for Chendra. Raising a calf is one of the most enriching things in an elephant’s life, and we really hoped this was her chance to experience that.”
Concerns rose early in September when Chendra’s reproductive hormones indicated a drop in her progesterone levels during a routine monitoring. Then last week another test confirmed she was no longer pregnant.
“Miscarriages, sadly, are common in most mammal species, including elephants and even humans,” said zoo veterinarian Kelly Flaminio. “We tend not to talk about it a lot because it can be a painful subject, but most of us know someone who’s been through this type of loss.”
Miscarriages usually occur early in the pregnancy, Dr. Flaminio added, and that was the case for Chendra, who was close to eight months pregnant — just around the end of the first trimester in human terms. The gestation period for elephants is around 22 months, the longest of any land mammal.
There’s no connection between Chendra’s TB and her miscarriage, but the loss of her pregnancy does simplify her treatment plan,” Dr. Flaminio said. “Our focus is now on making sure Chendra stays healthy and getting her back with the rest of her family as quickly as possible.”
If all goes well, she says, that could happen by late fall.