Deadly Zoo Elephant Virus Epidemic Strikes Again

Ailing St. Louis Zoo Calf Is 3rd Elephant Stricken in Under 4 months

St. Louis, Missouri – The zoo watchdog group In Defense of Animals (IDA) is renewing its call for a halt to Asian elephant breeding in zoos in the wake of news that 23-month old Jade at St. Louis Zoo has been stricken with the deadly Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV). She is the third zoo elephant afflicted with EEHV in less than four months; the other two elephants died. In a 2007 report, IDA identified St. Louis Zoo as a high-risk zoo for EEHV transmission.

“We are saddened but not surprised that Jade’s life is in grave danger from this highly fatal virus,” said Catherine Doyle of In Defense of Animals, noting that Jade was rejected by her mother shortly after birth.  “The St. Louis Zoo is one of many zoos across the nation that have recklessly continued to breed Asian elephants despite the known risks of EEHV infection.”

“The body of evidence regarding the prevalence of EEHV in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoos calls for the highest precautionary measures,” Doyle continued. “Yet, in their drive for the increased gate sales that come with the birth of a baby elephant, zoos have ignored the risk factors for EEHV transmission. In doing so, they are playing Russian Roulette with the lives of these animals.”

Since 2000, 11 elephants before Jade were stricken with the disease. None survived  Of known EEHV cases in North America, the disease has killed about 92 percent of the elephants it strikes.  Since 1998, 40 percent of Asian elephants born alive in AZA zoos have died from the deadly virus.

IDA’s 2007 report on EEHV identified St. Louis as a high-risk facility because one of its elephants, Pearl, spent time at Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, where she conceived Raja. Five elephants born at Dickerson have contracted EEHV; four died. In addition, Rani, Jade’s mother, was treated at St. Louis Zoo in August 2001 for “potential endotheliotropic herpesvirus infection,” according to zoo records.

EEHV is not a known problem in wild elephant populations.

Click here to view a fact sheet on EEHV.

For more information, see www.helpelephants.com.