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Zoo’s elephant pregnancy hopes as new Asian male ‘smitten’ with female herd

Bull Ming Jung arrived at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire from Antwerp in Belgium last year.

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Asian elephant Ming Jung (right) arrived at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire from Antwerp in Belgium last year (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo/PA)

Asian elephant Ming Jung (right) arrived at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire from Antwerp in Belgium last year (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo/PA)

Asian elephant Ming Jung (right) arrived at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire from Antwerp in Belgium last year (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo/PA)

The UK’s biggest zoo is monitoring its female elephants for signs of pregnancy after their first meeting with a recently-arrived male went better than expected.

Asian elephant Ming Jung arrived at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire from Antwerp in Belgium last year.

The 12-year-old has since been introduced to the herd’s females, and keepers said Ming Jung was “obviously smitten”.

The zoo is monitoring the behaviour of the female elephants for signs of pregnancy and they will undergo scans in the coming weeks.

Elephant pregnancies last about 22 months, according to National Geographic.

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Asian elephant Ming Jung arrived at the zoo last year (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo/PA)

Asian elephant Ming Jung arrived at the zoo last year (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo/PA)

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Asian elephant Ming Jung arrived at the zoo last year (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo/PA)

Matthew Webb, ZSL’s animal operations manager, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that the introductions between Ming Jung and our girls have been so positive – we just didn’t realise how well they would go!

“Animal introductions are something we carefully manage to ensure they are all content and ready – the elephants ‘meet’ over fences first and we observe their behaviour.

“The girls seemed really receptive to Ming Jung, and he is quite obviously smitten with them!”

Ming Jung’s move to the UK was part of the European Endangered Species Programme, where the breeding programme for an entire species is co-ordinated to ensure a healthy and genetically diverse population is protected in zoos.

“Ming Jung is a genetically important animal for the future of the species – he represents a new lineage,” said Mr Webb.

“We work really closely with the elephants and know their personality traits and quirks – so we’ll watch those for any signs, and in six weeks a scan should tell us if we can expect a new arrival in 22 months!”

The zoo is currently closed to the public amid the coronavirus crisis, but keepers and vets continue to care for the animals inside.

PA