Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants located in Seattle, WA works closely with IDA (In Defense of Animals).  We are pleased that IDA has filed a complaint with the USDA (below).

San Rafael, Calif. – In Defense of Animals (IDA) filed a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), charging that the Woodland Park 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 recently announced it had again artificially inseminated the elephant Chai.

“It is grossly irresponsible for the Woodland Park Zoo to continue breeding 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.”

In 2007, seven-year-old Hansa died from a previously unknown variant of the herpes virus. The zoo subsequently made public the fact that the strain of EEHV that killed her is present in the African elephant, Watoto. Following Hansa’s death, a leading EEHV expert stated that because Hansa never left the zoo since birth, the virus likely was passed from her mother, Chai, or one of the other elephants.

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 Woodland Park Zoo, IDA filed complaints against three other herpes-affected zoos that are actively breeding elephants:

  • The Houston Zoo, long considered a “hot spot” for EEHV, 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 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 Oklahoma City Zoo, which sent two females to the Tulsa Zoo for breeding, is attempting to impregnate the elephant Chendra, an EEHV survivor. A second elephant, Asha, who was likely exposed to the virus, is already pregnant.

“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 Woodland Park Zoo, please go to:

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