Animal Rights Group Condemns Saint Louis Zoo for Elephant Pregnancies

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Group says no elephant sex is safe at Saint Louis Zoo.
  • Group says no elephant sex is safe at Saint Louis Zoo.
California-based In Defense of Animals made a formal complaint today to the U.S. Department of Agriculture over two recent elephant pregnancies at the Saint Louis Zoo.

The zoo announced this week that Asian elephants Ellie and her daughter, Rani, are both pregnant by the same bull, Raja. The elephants are due to give birth in the summer of 2011.

In its complaint to the USDA, In Defense of Animals says the zoo was "irresponsible" for allowing its elephants to breed in light of an elephantine herpes outbreak at the park. Two of the zoo's Asian elephants carry the strain for herpes, with the Asian elephant Jade having survived two outbreaks of the virus. Elephant herpes is 90 percent fatal, according to In Defense of Animals.

Zoologists know little about how elephants contract herpes, but the IDA contends that the baby's carried by Ellie and Rani will likely be susceptible to the virus.
At the St. Louis Zoo it will not be possible to keep any newborns away from any elephants carrying the virus: The entire exhibit at zoo, which will soon be housing 10 elephants, is only 1.2 acres. More importantly, the elephants with known EEHV histories will be sisters to the new babies, which means that their relationships would naturally be close.
This is not the first time In Defense of Animals has criticized the Saint Louis Zoo, which the agency ranks in its "Hall of Shame."

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