Zoos Accused of Violating Federal Law With Dangerous Elephant Breeding Practices

San Rafael, Calif. – In Defense of Animals (IDA) today filed multiple complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), charging that elephant breeding practices at four zoos violate the federal Animal Welfare Act by knowingly exposing offspring to a high risk of infection with the mostly- fatal Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV). Included are the Houston Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo, St. Louis Zoo and the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

“It is grossly irresponsible for these zoos to continue breeding elephants, knowing that any infants born in their facilities will face a high risk of disease and death,” said Catherine Doyle, IDA campaign director. “IDA is calling on the USDA to stop the reckless breeding of elephants in herpes-affected zoos by adopting a policy that protects calves from unnecessary suffering and horrific deaths.”

In the complaints, IDA cited the high risks for infection with the deadly disease at each zoo, based its history of EEHV:

•    The Houston Zoo has long been considered a ” hot spot” for EEHV. Six calves born at the zoo died from the virus. Currently, four of the zoo’s five elephants have tested positive for EEHV, including two pregnant females, Shanti and Tess.

•    The Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle lost a young elephant, Hansa, to the virus in 2007, and holds an African elephant who tested positive. Yet the zoo recently artificially inseminated Hansa’ s mother, Chai.

•    The Oklahoma City Zoo, which sent two females to the Tulsa Zoo for breeding, is attempting to impregnate the elephant Chandra, an EEHV survivor and likely a carrier. A second elephant, Asha, who was likely exposed to the virus, is already pregnant.

•    The St. Louis Zoo has two elephant calves who were stricken with the virus in 2009; one was asymptomatic and treated, the other required drastic veterinary treatment and recovered but experienced a relapse in December. The calves would have contracted the virus from their mothers or other elephants at the zoo.

Little is known about EEHV, though the overwhelming evidence indicates it primarily strikes young Asian elephants in captivity, usually causing death through massive internal hemorrhaging. Almost 40 percent of Asian elephants born in AZA- accredited zoos in the last 12 years have succumbed to the disease. Stricken elephants have a mortality rate near 90 percent.

“Federal animal welfare law requires animal exhibitors to use appropriate methods to prevent and control disease. The only sure way to prevent new EEHV cases is to stop breeding elephants in herpes- affected zoos,” said Dr. Elliot Katz, IDA president and a veterinarian. “The USDA must move swiftly to insure that zoos do not expose more innocent calves to this devastating disease.”

For more information, visit www.HelpElephants.com.

Read IDA’s complaint against the Houston Zoo.
Read IDA’s complaint against the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Read IDA’S complaint  against the St. Louis Zoo.
Read IDA’s complaint against the Woodland Park Zoo.

March 17, 2010

Contact: Catherine Doyle, zoos@idausa.org, 323-301-5730

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization located in San Rafael, Calif. dedicated to protecting animals' rights, welfare, and habitat through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in Mumbai, India, Cameroon, Africa, and rural Mississippi. _________________________________________________________________________________

IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS • 3010 KERNER BLVD. • SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901 • 415-448-0048

One Comment on “Zoos Accused of Violating Federal Law With Dangerous Elephant Breeding Practices”

  • jena sue wrote on 22 March, 2010, 15:26

    WOW that is terrible poor poor elephants all animals should be better cared for in Zoo’s i mean they can’t fend for them self’s in captivity expecily after they were raised there, but next time i go to a Zoo ( if i ever do) i let people know about these things and maybe the world will change just by a liitle person like me!

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