Page last updated at 07:05 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 08:05 UK

'Heartbreak' over elephant death

Keepers at an Essex zoo have described as heartbreaking the death of an unborn baby elephant.

Zola, an African elephant at Colchester Zoo, was expected to give birth shortly, but the calf has died inside her womb.

The 25-year-old elephant also had another miscarriage five years ago.

Curator Anthony Tropeano said: "It looked like everything was going to plan, then for that process to break down is obviously heartbreaking."

Second pregnancy

Elephants have one of the longest gestation periods in the animal kingdom with pregnancy lasting up to 22 months, almost always producing a single calf.

Mr Tropeano said: "Everything was going fine. We went past the proposed birth date then we saw some significant changes in her blood chemistry that indicated that the calf was no longer viable.

"Exactly why this has happened... at this stage we just don't know. It's an upsetting time for everybody."

Zola became pregnant for a second time after mating with the zoo's bull, Tembo, but keepers remained cautious after Zola's previous pregnancy ended without success in 2003.




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