Veterinarians at the Oregon Zoo say pregnant elephant Rose-Tu could give birth within the next few days.
They've been monitoring the Asian elephant's hormone levels closely; her progesterone level has dropped sharply, signaling the calf will be born in one to three days.
The upcoming birth generated excitement among families visiting the zoo Tuesday.
"Oh, we can't wait," said Kristine Strachan, who brought her son Lukas to see the elephants. "We've actually been coming here at least once a week. Watching her, seeing what's been going on. The interaction is really cool, seeing the dynamics."
Visitors are no longer able to catch a glimpse of the expectant mother.
Zoo staff members have brought Rose-Tu into the indoor barn and closed the public viewing area to give her privacy. According to zoo staff, female members of the herd and her first calf, 4-year-old Samudra, were visiting her.
Vets say the 18-year-old Asian elephant's pregnancy has progressed normally. Doctors have been monitoring the calf through ultrasound, watching Rose-Tu's weight closely, and doing stretching exercises with her.
"She's a great mom by the way. I mean she's really been terrific these past four years," said zoo director Kim Smith. "We really don't expect any problems at all."
When she gave birth to son Samudra at the Oregon Zoo in 2008, the elephant got confused and attempted to trample her newborn. Zoo staff have also been "training" Rose-Tu to get ready for the baby, according to Smith.
"Just different ways of making her used to something big kind of falling next to her. This thing will be next to her. She takes it like a champ of course. She's probably going, yeah, I know," said Smith.
The average elephant gestation is 20 to 22 months.
Elephant labor can also take a very long time. The animals typically labor for at least 12 hours, Smith said. Rose-Tu was in labor for 36 hours when she gave birth to Samudra.
The father of the new calf is Tusko, a 40-year-old elephant at the zoo, who also fathered Samudra.
And don't buy pink or blue just yet. Zookeepers won't know the sex of the calf until it's born.
Copyright 2012 KPTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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