Rarely is it OK to tell an expectant mother to drop pounds before having a baby. However, a pregnant elephant at the Houston Zoo is being asked to shed some major weight, reported ABC affiliate KTRK.
Tess, a 33-year-old Asian elephant, is being put on a diet and exercise regime by the zoo, in hopes of losing a whopping 500 pounds. Tess currently weighs over 7,000 pounds.
The regime outlined by the zoo includes walking up to two miles each day and doing elephant yoga, where she lifts her feet high in the air and holds them there to try to tone up muscles.
Tess is currently nine months pregnant, which is in the early stage for an elephant pregnancy, since a normal elephant pregnancy cycle lasts 22 months.
If Tess remains overweight, there is a risk of the calf getting too big and becoming stuck during birth, according to zoo officials.
Tess underwent the same exercise routine while pregnant three years ago, and gave birth to a calf named Tupelo, who weighed 270 pounds at birth. Tess has another child, Tucker, who is 8, according to Jackie Wallace, spokeswoman at the Houston Zoo.
Although 500 pounds might sound like a lot to lose, zoo officials said it is a realistic target considering the expectant mother currently weighs over 7,000 pounds. It is about the same as asking a 200-pound man to lose 12 pounds.
The mother's typical diet consists of hay, grain and produce, including apples, bananas and sweet potatoes.
"Tess loves watermelons," Wallace said.
Occasionally, Tess gets popcorn as a treat. The Houston Zoo is feeding her in smaller portions, but making sure that she gets all the nutrients needed, zoo officials said.