Feds Urged to Investigate Chai the Elephant’s Death at Zoo

PETA Veterinarian Wants Authorities to Hold Zoo Accountable for Apparent Violations of the Animal Welfare Act

For Immediate Release:
March 29, 2016

David Perle 202-483-7382

Oklahoma City – During a close examination of the veterinary records of Chai—the elephant who died prematurely in January at the Oklahoma City Zoo—PETA Foundation Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Heather Rally found several indications that the zoo had failed to address conditions related to her illness adequately, prompting PETA to send a letter this morning (available here) calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate Chai’s death and hold the zoo accountable for any violations of the Animal Welfare Act that it may find.

The Oklahoma City Zoo made two announcements about Chai’s cause of death, first blaming it on an infection, then attributing it to a chronic tooth abnormality that had prevented her from digesting her food and essentially caused her to starve to death—which, Dr. Rally notes, could likely have been addressed with a simple diet change. These causes were confirmed by her necropsy, which revealed that she was emaciated.

“Chai the elephant’s veterinary records raise huge red flags, and PETA is calling on the authorities to investigate and hold the Oklahoma City Zoo responsible for the circumstances leading up to her untimely death,” says Rally. “This zoo must shut down its elephant exhibit to prevent the suffering and death of more animals, and it should promptly retire the surviving elephants to a sanctuary.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that the Oklahoma City Zoo recently announced that Malee, a 4-year-old elephant who died last fall from elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), suffered from the same strain of the virus that Chai was carrying. Chai had begun shedding the virus while she was living with Malee—raising concerns that the zoo was not implementing appropriate precautions that could have prevented transmission of the virus and saved Malee’s life.

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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