The following press release was distributed on Thursday, January 21, 2010 by In Defense of Animals. The St. Louis Zoo is currently home to Sri, who originally lived at the Woodland Park Zoo for 21 years. While the Zoo insists that it would be cruel to send Bamboo, Chai, or Watoto across country to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, they had no problem shipping Sri to Missouri to breed.  Sri got pregnant and the fetus died in utero.  Sri still carries the dead fetus 5 years later.

San Rafael, Calif. – In Defense of Animals (IDA), joined by a top authority on elephant behavior and biology, today strongly criticized the St. Louis Zoo for recklessly breeding elephants. The charge follows an announcement by the zoo that the elephant Rani is again pregnant, despite serious complications following the last two births at the zoo and the threat posed by a deadly elephant virus.

In a statement released today, Dr. Keith Lindsay, a conservation biologist with thirty years experience studying wild elephants in Africa with the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, stated:

“Elephants deserve our respect and human decency, not confinement and control in degrading, dangerous conditions. St Louis Zoo is a classic example of how not to keep elephants in captivity. The problems are many and easy to see: eight elephants in a subdivided enclosure of just over an acre when they really need square miles, physical ailments resulting from the lack of movement, a cold climate requiring even closer confinement for months on end, and an incurable disease that is more likely to spread in such a tightly-packed group. How can zoo authorities be thinking of breeding under such conditions, inflicting additional stress on the mothers and bringing tiny calves into such a world of suffering?”

With the zoo’s two most recent births, each calf suffered life-threatening situations unseen in wild-living elephants. Maliha, born in 2006, failed to gain weight when mother Ellie didn’t produce enough milk and required extraordinary measures to insure her survival. Jade, born in 2007, was rejected and attacked by her mother on more than one occasion, suffering “superficial abrasions and contusions” during one incident, according to zoo records.

Then in February 2009, Jade contracted a deadly elephant virus that mainly strikes elephants in captivity and has killed 35 percent of Asian elephants born in U.S. zoos over the last 12 years. She is one of the rare survivors of the disease, though she suffered an unprecedented relapse in December. The virus also infected cage-mate Maliha, who was non-symptomatic. There is a high risk that any elephant born at the St. Louis Zoo will contract the deadly virus.

“It is unconscionable for the St. Louis Zoo to continue breeding elephants, knowing full well that any infant born there faces a high risk of maternal rejection, disease and death,” says Catherine Doyle, IDA campaign director. “The zoo’s irresponsible actions have nothing to do with elephant conservation and everything to do with maximizing profits to be made from a new baby elephant. The Zoo should be condemned by anyone who cares about the well-being of elephants and their future on this planet.”

Dr. Lindsay continued: “The St. Louis Zoo’s justification for breeding elephants appears to include a ‘responsibility’ to save the species from extinction, but genuine conservationists see no role for captive breeding in the preservation of wild populations. Elephant conservation requires money for the serious work taking place in Asia and Africa, and zoos (along with other organizations) can help with fund-raising, but there is no need to keep elephants in appalling conditions to make this effort possible.”

For more information, please visit

One Response to “Leading Elephant Expert Joins In Defense of Animals in Condemning St. Louis Zoo for Deadly Breeding Practices”

  1. Maureen Christian on 27 Jan 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    The Hawthorn elephants traveled from Illinois to Tennessee with knowledgeable people and they all arrived safely at The Elephant Sanctuary. The space at the zoo is too,too small. In the wild, elephants walk up to 30 or more miles a day foraging for food, why because they are wired that way. Having baby elephants to bring in more revenue is wrong; the herd has no space and the herpes virus can easily spread to all of them. It makes no sense at all, except for the almighty dollar!! Find another way to bring money to your city. Let the elephants go to Tennessee where they will not pace. They will have space, over 2000 acres, to roam in lush green grass and trees, ponds to play in and mud, glorious mud to cover them. Elephants love to cover themselves in mud. The caregivers at the sanctuary the best and the co-owners are very knowledgeable of elephants’ needs. At this location,the elephants MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS,for example, whether to go into the barn at night or stay outside and enjoy the wonders of the earth. Now is the time to consider the elephant and NOT the PROFIT!

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply