Feds Cite Pittsburgh Zoo After Elephant Calf’s Death

PETA Releases Inspection Reports Revealing That Facility Was Understaffed and Unprepared for Elephant's Birth

For Immediate Release:
December 12, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

Pittsburgh – PETA has obtained two previously unreleased U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection reports that call into question the Pittsburgh Zoo’s claims about Seeni the elephant and her calf, who died at 3 months old after the zoo separated her from her mother and put her on display last year.

According to the reports, the Pittsburgh Zoo’s so-called “International Conservation Center,” where Seeni’s calf was born, didn’t have enough employees to care for six elephants, including the newborn calf, who required round-the-clock care. The USDA wrote that the zoo took the calf from Seeni “in part because of this limited staff and their inability to care for this animal.” The USDA also noted that Seeni was lactating several days after the birth and suggested that she may have bonded with her baby had she been given more time, contrary to the zoo’s claims that she’d rejected her and wasn’t producing milk.

“The Pittsburgh Zoo was utterly unprepared to care for this sickly calf properly, and it put her on display instead of giving her the best chance at survival in her mother’s care,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “The zoo failed both Seeni and her calf, and this is exactly why PETA has called for an end to its archaic elephant program.”

The USDA reports also note that the calf had a 2-inch wound on her head and was exposed to hazards like electrical wires and bleach at the zoo. Now, PETA is urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to suspend the Endangered Species Act permit that it issued earlier this year allowing the Pittsburgh Zoo to import semen from an elephant at a zoo in Canada. PETA’s complaint notes that a young elephant named Umasai died at the Pittsburgh Zoo around the same time that Seeni’s calf was put on display—but the facility never announced his death.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—also points out that the USDA later removed many of the damning details contained in its report following an appeal by the zoo, a move consistent with the agency’s increasing lack of transparency and its efforts to protect animal-exploiting businesses from “embarrassment” instead of protecting animals as the law requires.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind