Page last updated at 19:48 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 20:48 UK

Elephant expecting summer birth

Nick Masters carries out a scan on Noorjahan
It is not possible to tell the calf's gender from the scan

The first Asian elephant in the UK to conceive via artificial insemination is due to give birth this August.

Noorjahan, who lives at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire, has been pregnant for 19 months and her calf is expected to weigh about 200lbs when it arrives.

She was inseminated from a bull elephant based at Whipsnade Wildlife park in Bedfordshire.

The procedure was done artificially as moving elephants between zoos for mating can be bad for herd dynamics.

'Big thing'

The resident vet at Twycross Nick Masters said: "Elephants birthing in captivity is a big thing.

Elephant
Noorjahan arrived at the zoo from West Bengal in 1998

"We're desperately keen in zoos across Europe that the population is self-sustaining and/or growing."

Mr Masters carried out a scan to ensure the pregnancy was progressing satisfactorily.

But unlike with humans, he said it was not possible to see if the baby was male or female.

Noorjahan arrived at the zoo from West Bengal in 1998 when she was two-and-a-half years old.

At the time, two other Twycross elephants were pregnant and her main role was helping the "expecting" mothers to become familiar with smaller elephants.

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Resident vet at Twycross Nick Masters explains the scanning process



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