Nelly-Natal Exercise: Preparing to become a mother at age 20. Pregnant elephant Panang practices stretching exercises during pregnancy

Like any expectant mother, Panang the elephant wants the very best for her baby, which is evident as she carefully performs her maternity exercises.

Guided by her minder Andi Fries, the 20-year-old elephant did a series of stretches in her pen at the Tierpark Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich.

Panang, who is nearing the end of her two-year gestation period, is due to give birth this month or next.

Antenatal classes: Panang the elephant is put through her paces with her trainer Andi Fries at the Tierpark Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich

Easy does it: Panang’s exercises are designed to ensure her calf does not grow too big and to ease her labour

Zoo keepers are anxious about the birth as Panang has been pregnant twice before – but both calves were stillborn.

Stillbirths are common among elephants, who experience difficult labours, sometimes resulting in the baby becoming stuck between the womb and the pelvis.

Indeed some captive elephants have been discovered to carry mummified fetal remains in their wombs for years.

That’s my girl: Keepers are anxious about Panang’s pregnancy as she has delivered two stillborn calves in the past

While emergency Caesareans have been attempted, the procedure is always at the expense of the life of the mother.

Which is why Panang is being put through her regimen of stretching and strengthening exercises, designed to ensure that her calf does not grow too big and to help her build up the muscles she will rely on during labour.

Elephants in captivity usually have their legs tethered during labour to prevent them from hurting themselves or their handlers.

Once the delivery is complete, mother and calf are given space and privacy to bond.

And stretch: Panang is nearing the end of her two-year pregnancy

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