Pregnant Asian Elephant at Oregon Zoo May Have Tuberculosis

It’s unclear if treatment would affect the baby.

Chendra (Oregon Zoo)

The Oregon Zoo announced today that Chendra, a 26-year-old Asian elephant, is six-months pregnant and may have tuberculosis.

According to a statement from the zoo, a test last week flagged Chendra as potentially having TB. Definitive test results will take eight weeks, and in the meantime Chendra is quarantined from other animals.

Three other elephants have been successfully treated for TB at the Oregon Zoo, but it is unclear if the treatment would affect Chendra's baby.

"Treatments for expectant human moms with TB do not appear to adversely affect their pregnancy," a statement from the zoo reads. "Less is known about the effect of treatment on pregnant elephants, although the medications are the same."

Kelly Flaminio, the zoo's veterinarian, said that if treatment is necessary, Chendra would be cured and back with her herd "long before the baby is due."

"There are no reported cases of elephant calves contracting TB from their mother during pregnancy, and it is extremely rare in humans as well," Flaminio tells WW in an email.  "If Chendra does require treatment, we are well prepared for that. Nothing is certain, of course, but we anticipate a healthy elephant calf in 2020."

Zoo staff guess Chendra conceived sometime in January, and they are uncertain which male elephant—Samson or Samudra—is the father.

"All we can say for sure is that the dad's name is Sam," Bob Lee, overseer of the zoo's elephants, said.

In the past, the Oregon Zoo has been scrutinized by elephant activists for its care of the animals.

In December, Lily, the zoo's youngest elephant, died abruptly of a virus. Protesters then called the zoo "a prison for elephants," and argued elephants should be kept in sanctuaries, not zoos.

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