Kandula's Birthday Celebration
November 20, 2002
Sharon Wright / 202 673-0209
Matt Olear (FONZ) / 202 673-4925
National Zoo’s Elephant Calf
The public is invited to celebrate the first birthday of Kandula, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park’s male Asian elephant and one of its most popular residents, on Saturday, Nov. 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Zoo and the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) is free and takes place at the Zoo’s Elephant House.
Guests will be treated to a variety of interactive activities and exhibits, including a photographic diary of Kandula’s first year and an arts-and-crafts area for kids. Animal demonstrations will highlight other residents of the Elephant House, including hippos, rhinos and giraffes. Visitors will also have the opportunity to watch Kandula eat a special treat, as well as have their pictures taken next to a life-size photograph of the young elephant.
Although the festivities surrounding Kandula will highlight the event, this will be more than a celebration of the young elephant’s first year. Designed to be educational as well, the festival will provide the public an opportunity to learn about all elephants, both in zoos and in the wild. FONZ volunteers will host discovery stations where guests can learn interesting facts about elephants, and Zoo scientists will be on hand to discuss scientific breakthroughs they’ve made regarding elephant reproduction.
Kandula’s birth on Nov. 25, 2001, attests to the successful scientific research into endangered-species propagation being conducted at the National Zoo and its Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia. Because the National Zoo does not have facilities to hold an elephant bull, naturally breeding Kandula’s mother, Shanthi, at the Zoo was not possible.
Shanthi’s pregnancy was the result of a Zoo decision to artificially inseminate the elephant rather than send her away from her herd to another zoo facility for breeding. The semen used to inseminate Shanthi came from Calvin, a 13-year-old Asian bull from Calgary, Canada. At that time, Shanthi’s pregnancy was only the fourth successful artificial insemination of an elephant in the United States, and the fifth in the world.
For more than two decades, researchers around the world
had attempted AI in elephants unsuccessfully. A turning point
in this important research came as a result of international
collaboration involving a National Zoo reproductive physiologist.
In 1995, German scientists Drs. Thomas Hildebrandt, Frank Goeritz and Robert Hermes of the Institute for Zoo Biology and Wildlife Research in Berlin, developed a procedure using ultrasound technology and an endoscope-guided semen catheter to deposit sperm in the female elephant’s reproductive tract. At about the same time, Dr. Janine Brown and the staff of the National Zoo’s Department of Reproductive Sciences discovered a unique hormonal pattern in the elephant estrous cycle that allowed them to pinpoint the day of ovulation. This information insured that Hildebrandt, Goeritz and Hermes could artificially inseminate elephants at the precise time of ovulation and improve the likelihood of conception.
Kandula's first year of life will be the subject of a detailed documentary film produced by the Discovery Channel. The production will be aired in 2003.
Kandula’s birth was also a milestone because it marked the beginning of efforts to increase the size of the National Zoo’s elephant herd, as well as expand and enhance their zoo habitat through construction of the planned “Asia Trail”—a major step in Zoo Director Lucy Spelman’s 10-year Zoo revitalization plan. Future plans call for the Zoo’s elephants to be relocated to a new area adjacent to their current building, where they will be provided with a larger outdoor enclosure and an expansive indoor exhibit facility of their own.
"Asia Trail" will include a series of yards connected by a track that is designed to encourage elephant movement. Improvements will also include a modern building that will be suitable for bull elephants and will provide space for a family group of elephants. Construction is anticipated to begin in spring 2004.
The National Zoo is located at 3001 Connecticut Avenue N.W., a short walk from Metro’s Red Line stations at Cleveland Park and Woodley Park/Zoo/Adams Morgan. Zoo parking is very limited and visitors are encouraged to use public transportation. For more information, log onto the FONZ Web site at www.fonz.org or call (202) 673-4717.