IDA Files USDA Complaints Against Four Zoos for Dangerous Breeding Practices

San Rafael, Calif. – In Defense of Animals (IDA) filed a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), charging that the Oklahoma City Zoo’s elephant breeding practices violates the federal Animal Welfare Act by knowingly exposing offspring to an unacceptably high risk of infection with the often-fatal Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV). The zoo is attempting to breed Chandra, who survived EEHV and likely carries the virus; Asha is pregnant and due next year.

“It is grossly irresponsible for the Oklahoma City Zoo to breed elephants, knowing that any infant born there faces 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.”

Chandra and Asha came to Oklahoma City from the Dickerson Park Zoo, at which five elephants were infected with EEHV, including Chandra, the only survivor. Asha was likely exposed to the virus through Chandra or other elephants. Both elephants are being temporarily held at the Tulsa Zoo, which lost an elephant to EEHV in 1993.

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.

In addition to its complaint regarding the Oklahoma City Zoo, IDA filed complaints against three other herpes-affected zoos that are actively breeding elephants:

- The Houston Zoo, long considered a herpes “hot spot,” has two pregnant elephants. Four of the zoo’s five elephants have tested positive for the virus, including the pregnant females. Six calves born at the zoo died from the virus.

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

- 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.

“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.”

To read IDA’s complaint against the Oklahoma City Zoo, please go to:

For more information, visit

March 17, 2010

Contact: Catherine Doyle,, 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

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