Houston zoo puts pregnant elephant on jumbo weight-loss plan

HOUSTON (REUTERS) – Zookeepers in Houston have placed a pregnant Asian elephant named Tess on a weight loss and exercise regimen, trying to help the pudgy pachyderm cut 228kg in time for delivery of the baby in about a year.

“Part of the reason we’re doing it now is to get ahead of the game. When she gets closer to delivery she’ll move less and be less active,” said Daryl Hoffman, curator of large mammals at the Houston Zoo.

At about 3,500 kg, Tess is roughly 6 per cent overweight. The elephant’s weight is already at the amount it should be at the end of a healthy pregnancy – and if Tess gets any larger, she may have trouble giving birth, zoo officials said.

Along with a lower-calorie diet, Tess is going for a brisk 3.2km walk inside her habitat each morning before visitors arrive.

She also does leg exercises to improve muscle tone that zoo staff refer to as “elephant yoga.”

Zookeepers said her planned weight cut would be like a 91kg person dropping 5.4kg. Asian elephants can weigh up to 5,000kg, according to data provided by various zoos.