The elephant named Mao (18 years old) at Morioka Zoo in Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan, has been following a weight-loss regimen by walking a distance of 60 meters, 15 times a day, with the assistance of visitors. Mao weighed approximately 500 kilograms when he started the special diet following the death of his partner in November 2018.
The zoo staff has been helping Mao lose weight in order to increase his chances of artificial insemination and welcome the first elephant calf born through this method in Japan.
Since June 1st, visitors to Morioka Zoo have been assisting Mao in walking back and forth between two ends of the elephant enclosure. Each journey covers a distance of 60 meters, and Mao completes it 15 times a day.
As of June 20th, Mao weighed 3,940 kilograms, a reduction of 210 kilograms compared to the end of January. However, Mao’s ideal weight should be around 3,600 kilograms.
After the loss of his partner at the zoo about 1.5 years ago, Mao began to lose his appetite, leading the zoo staff to provide him with higher-calorie food to maintain his weight, resulting in Mao becoming overweight.
According to the zoo staff, the weight loss will make artificial insemination safer for Mao, but it also poses potential risks.
“We will closely monitor Mao’s health condition and adjust his diet accordingly,” said the zoo staff.
Many visitors to the zoo have shown great enthusiasm for this endeavor. Hiroki Matsumoto (44 years old), who brought his daughter to the zoo, shared his excitement, saying, “I am looking forward to the birth of Japan’s first elephant calf through artificial insemination.”