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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey(R) Proudly Announces Its First Elephant Calf Born From Artificial Insemination
Date:1/27/2009

It's A Boy! The 22nd Calf Born into the Ringling Bros.(R) Conservation and Breeding Program

VIENNA, Va., Jan. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation(R) proudly announces the birth of a healthy male Asian elephant -- marking the twenty-second birth in what has proven to be the most successful Asian elephant breeding program in the Western Hemisphere. Most importantly, this is the first calf in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey assisted reproduction program born as a result of artificial insemination (AI). Born on Jan. 19, the inaugural eve of the 44th President of the United States at 11:50 p.m. and weighing 250 pounds, the calf has been named Barack. This calf is a first for fourteen-year-old Bonnie, who also was born at the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, and until recently was performing with The Greatest Show On Earth(R). Two male elephant donors from the Ringling Bros. herd contributed to the AI procedure and Ringling Bros. veterinarians will soon be taking blood samples to determine which donor is the calf's father. As with each calf born at Ringling Bros., Barack will have a team of veterinarians and elephant husbandry specialists that will watch over and care for him as he grows and develops.

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090127/PH63514 )

"The reality is that the worldwide elephant population is declining, which means the overall mortality rate is increasing and that is a heart breaking fact. That is why at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey practical solutions that help to care for and to save these magnificent animals are critical," says Kenneth Feld, Founder of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation. "Our priority at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is to invest in and support health and conservation programs for captive populations that in the future may help save range country populations. We are thrilled that Bonnie and now Barack are living tributes to our commitment at Ringling Bros."

Barack is only the fourth elephant to be born in the United States from artificial insemination (AI). The first calf born from an AI was in 1999 at Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri under the watch of Dr. Dennis Schmitt, Chair of Veterinary Care and Director of Research for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. AI procedures are considered a viable option in conservation programs where species like the Asian elephant are endangered. The AI procedure is meant to complement natural breeding efforts not replace them. It also helps to manage and increase the gene pool population without the logistics of relocating and introducing a male elephant (solitary by nature) to an established herd of female elephants.

"The key to a successful AI is timing for the female in conjunction with a viable semen collection. On average, a female Asian elephant cycles approximately three-to-four times a year so the procedure must take place during a very brief two-to-three day period around the time of ovulation when fertilization is most likely," says Dr. Dennis Schmitt. "There have been great strides within the past decade in animal reproductive sciences as it pertains to inseminating the captive elephant population. The commitment from Ringling Bros. to ensure that the endangered Asian elephant survives has been monumental to these research advancements."

Advancements include: improved ability to predict ovulation as a female elephant's cycle must be identified before an attempt to inseminate; better semen collection protocol for male elephants to ensure viability and motility; and insemination techniques such as utilizing a custom made catheter that places the collection closer to the site of fertilization. Additionally, the comfort of the female elephant during an AI procedure is of the highest priority. The process to train an elephant to accept an AI can vary from just a few weeks to a year which is why it is essential to have an experienced and knowledgeable elephant management staff present to ensure that the elephant is safe and content during the procedure.

As the leader in the presentation and the preservation of the Asian elephant, Ringling Bros. commitment is a testament of what can be done to ensure the welfare of a species. Proper care and management of the endangered Asian elephant species is vital to their survival. The goal of the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation is to focus on the research, reproduction and retirement of captive Asian elephants. Since the breeding program's inception, it has seen unparalleled success and remains one of many key components in Ringling Bros. conservation efforts. The Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation continues to be the trustee of the largest herd of Asian elephants in the Western Hemisphere. Ringling Bros. now has 54 elephants under its care including thirteen elephants over the age of 45 and one over 60. In 2007, Ringling Bros. was granted F2 status by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife, which means that the elephants born under Ringling Bros. care are successfully reproducing and are thereby self-sustaining the herd.

Other collaborative components to Ringling Bros. Asian elephant conservation initiatives include partnering with the University of Peradeniya in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Based out of the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, the four students enrolled in a Masters of Philosophy (MPhil) program in Captive Elephant Management at the University are implementing university-approved research projects lead by Dr. Schmitt on Asian elephants with time spent learning elephant husbandry practices and handling techniques. Ringling Bros. also works with the Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust and its grass roots conservation education program. The international program focuses on education in the primary schools and local villages in the elephant range areas of Sri Lanka.

Another successful element to Ringling Bros. conservation program is research. That is why in 2007, the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation established the annual International Conference on Tuberculosis in Elephants. The Conference brings together experts in human and animal medicine to discuss the current state of tuberculosis research for elephants. Research funding is crucial to the health of this species and, since 2005, Ringling Bros. initiatives have funded more than $300,000 toward the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo's research projects which included a study on the endotheliotropic herpes viruses, the single greatest health threat to the Asian elephant. Only four known elephants have survived the disease, one of which is currently residing at the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation.

About the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation was established to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to experience the endangered Asian elephant species. Built in 1995, this 200-acre, state-of-the-art facility was designed for the reproduction, research and retirement of the Asian elephant, enabling Ringling Bros. to share its elephant husbandry knowledge with the veterinary and conservation communities worldwide. For more information about the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation visit www.elephantcenter.com.


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SOURCE Feld Entertainment, Inc.
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