Washington State Magazine

Winter 2001

Winter 2001

In This Issue...


Mariner Mania :: A new hero surfaced every game. Ichiro, Bell, Boone, Martinez, McLemore, Olerud, Cameron, Garcia, Sele. by Pat Caraher

Cataclysm, Light, & Passion :: Even though the Washington wine industry is in its relative infancy, it is playing with the big boys. How did it get so good so quickly? by Tim Steury

The Laguna's Secrets :: On the shore of the Laguna Especial, some 30 locals of all ages watch patiently, no doubt mentally rehearsing the crazy gringo stories they'll share tonight over dinner. The archaeologists are the best show on the mountain. by Tim Steury

Peter Van Sant Thrives on a "48-Hour" Day :: Peter Van Sant hasn't seen it all. But he hasn't missed much either. by Pat Caraher

State Route 26 Revealed :: Pepto pig, abandoned barns, dueling windmills, poplar trees that grow 15 feet a year. Revealing the soul of a highway. by Andrea Vogt




ASK DR. UNIVERSE: What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Cover: Winemaker Cheryl Barber-Jones ('76 Food Science), of Silver Lake Winery. Read the story. Photograph © 2001 Laurence Chen, www.lchenphoto.com.

Janine Brown ('80, '84) visits with elephant Shanthi.


Janine Brown ('80, '84) visits with Shanthi, a 24-year-old Asian elephant. Brown coordinated the successful artificial insemination of Shanthi in February 2000.

Shanthi the elephant is due in December

by | © Washington State University

AS YOU MIGHT WELL IMAGINE, artificially inseminating an elephant is a touchy business. But, says Janine Brown, artificial insemination (AI) is an important tool, because natural reproduction can be difficult for captive elephants. Bulls are dangerous to keep, there aren’t many of them around, and transporting the females to where the bulls are is both stressful and expensive.

Brown, who completed two degrees in animal science (’80 M.S., ’84 Ph.D.) at Washington State University, is the senior endocrinologist at the Smithsonian Institution National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. There, in late February 2000, she coordinated the successful artificial insemination (AI) of Shanthi, a 24-year-old Asian elephant. Shanthi is due in December.

Captive animals serve an important function, says Brown. “People often don’t care about things they don’t see.” Also, she says, we need to learn more about elephants so that we can better manage them, both in zoos and in the wild.

“Many females of reproductive age are not exhibiting normal estrous cycles,” says Brown. This means they can’t be bred at all. Brown currently is trying to determine why these animals are not cycling. Preliminary data suggest that there probably are both physiological and behavioral causes.

The reproductive tract of the female elephant is several meters long, making it hard to get the semen to the right place for fertilization. And the semen is not easy to collect from bull elephants that can weigh up to six tons. But recent technological advances have reversed two decades of failure.

German collaborators in Shanthi’s AI developed an endoscopeguided semen catheter, along with ultrasound techniques that allow visualization of the entire reproductive tract. Brown’s laboratory at the Smithsonian developed a hormone assay technique that allowed the team to know exactly when AI would be most successful.

Brown’s lab handles hormone analyses of blood samples for more than three dozen zoos. She consults on reproductive problems in elephants, rhinos, and exotic cats and is reproductive advisor for the group that produces recommendations for breeding captive elephants.

Categories: Breeding, Veterinary medicine | Tags: Zoology, Elephant

Comments are temporarily unavailable while we perform some maintenance to reduce spam messages. If you have comments about this article, please send them to us by email: wsm@wsu.edu