November 19, 2003
Contact: Nancy Furlow202-673-4840
THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL CELEBRATES D.C.’S BIGGEST TODDLER’S BIRTHDAY IN "KANDULA: AN ELEPHANT STORY"
On November 25, 2001, the Smithsonian’s National
Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. witnessed a scientific
milestone when one of their female elephants, Shanthi,
gave birth to Kandula, their first-ever captive male
Asian elephant conceived through artificial insemination.
AN ELEPHANT STORY, premiering Sunday, November
23, from 9-10 p.m., the Discovery Channel presents
a one-hour special that follows Kandula’s first
year of life. This Discovery Channel Quest initiative
tells his story from the pioneering science that made
his conception possible, to his breathtaking birth
and through the National Zoo’s fervent efforts – funded
in part by Discovery – to keep Kandula healthy.
Shanthi, Kandula’s mother, came to the National Zoo as a gift from the children of Sri Lanka in 1976. She is among the last generation of zoo elephants born in the wild. In the special, viewers hear about Shanthi’s first baby born in 1993, a female named Kumari, and how 16 months after her birth, Kumari suddenly fell ill and died. Although tragic, Kumari’s death would save many other lives by exposing a silent killer – endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), a malady that had never been identified prior to Kumari’s passing.
The program documents the Zoo’s numerous attempts to have Shanthi conceive a second time through artificial insemination (AI). Viewers learn of a fortunate discovery by Dr. Janine Brown, a reproductive endocrinologist, who found that elephants have two hormonal surges prior to ovulation. This revelation enabled Dr. Brown to precisely pinpoint the release of Shanthi’s egg and ease the AI process.
Viewers also learn how a German biologist working at the Zoo was instrumental in Shanthi’s conception. Thomas Hildebrandt invented a new catheter outfitted with a fiber-optic camera, which allowed for precise placement of harvested semen. Once it was determined when Shanthi’s egg would release, the AI was scheduled and the hope of conception was realized. Three months later, it was confirmed that Shanthi was pregnant.
The program takes viewers through Kandula’s birth – the healthy baby elephant came into the world at 324 lbs, head up and staring at his keepers. Kandula was named after the most famous elephant in Sri Lanka’s history; the original Kandula being known for his courage, strength and loyalty.
Viewers watch as Kandula is regularly checked for the herpesvirus, along with other potentially fatal infections and diseases. Kandula’s handlers taught him early on to allow them to check his tongue – three times a day – as discoloration of the tongue is one of the initial signs of disease. Dr. Laura Richman was a resident at the Zoo when Kumari died and she devoted her doctorate to solving the mysterious death of the baby elephant. Dr. Richman developed a groundbreaking test that determines if an elephant has been exposed to the herpesvirus. Although a cure still eludes scientists, detecting exposure allows for quarantine and treatment and the experimental use of drugs that have saved some exposed elephants’ lives.
KANDULA: AN ELEPHANT STORY is produced by Rocket Pictures for the Discovery Channel. For Rocket Pictures, Jim Berger and Karen Weiser are co-executive producers. For the Discovery Channel, Maureen Lemire is executive producer.
Discovery Channel is one of the United States’ two largest cable television networks, serving 87.7 million households across the nation with the finest in informative entertainment. Discovery Networks, a division of Discovery Communications, Inc., operates and manages Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Discovery Health Channel, Discovery Kids Channel, The Science Channel TM, Discovery Home & Leisure Channel, Discovery Civilization Channel, Discovery Wings Channel, and Discovery en Espanol. The unit also markets and distributes BBC America.
Images available at www.press.discovery.com, contact Barbara Cvrkel, 240-662-2928