He wasn’t exactly a small bundle of joy. For after a fairly short labor for his mother, Nelson entered this world last week at the whopping birth weight of 326 pounds. And you have to respect any twenty-nine-year-old mother that can do that, even if she is an elephant named Shanti in the Houston Zoo.
It was still a little scary, to be sure, for almost immediately after his birth, Nelson had to undergo emergency surgery by the excellent veterinarians at the zoo to repair a torn vessel. And just in case he needed a transfusion, the rest of the elephant team simultaneously began collecting whole blood from others in the herd, a task that required not just skill and training but a whole lot of hutzpah as well, I suspect.
Fortunately, in the end, the surgery was successful, and Nelson and his mom Shanti were reunited. Before the day ended, in fact, the “little” tyke was up and walking on his own. (It helps to have four legs when you start out.) But the dedicated zoo team is still watching closely just to make sure in their words that the bonding goes well and—get this—that Nelson “hits his weight goals.”
And for many folks who have been trying their best to avoid that “Quarantine Fifteen” weight gain during this period of staying in that has to sound a little funny. For when you start out at 326 pounds—a bit more, by the way, than the two to three hundred pounds that most baby elephants weigh when they are born — just exactly what additional weight goal do you really need to shoot for?
To be certain, adult elephants can weigh anywhere from five thousand to fourteen thousand pounds, so Nelson actually has a long “weigh” to go. Not so much for you and me, however. For as these weird weeks wear on it’s demonstrably clear that increasing our exercise and outdoor time is one of the best responses we might make to this strange spring. Indeed, if our bodies really are “the temple of the Lord,” a favorite metaphor that St. Paul uses with both the Corinthians and the Ephesians, we can probably all use this time to spruce up the place a little.
Hitting our “weight goals” may take us thus in the opposite direction of Baby Nelson, though for some folks staying healthy has always been a lifetime goal. But at least for me, well, let’s just say I’m hoping to follow the motto of John the Baptist when it came to Jesus, namely, “He must increase, and I must decrease!” (John 3.30)
Photo from Houston Zoo