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Advocacy Group Requests Investigation Into Oklahoma City Zoo Elephant Death

Chai at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.
Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Creative Commons/Google Images
Chai at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

Following the death of a 37 year old female elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo, the Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants requested a United States Department of Agriculture investigation of the zoo and the conditions surrounding the animals’ wellbeing on Tuesday. Chai, one of two elephants transferred eight months ago from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, was found dead by zookeepers on Saturday morning.

Members of the advocacy group called for the elephants to live at an animal sanctuary instead of the Oklahoma City Zoo when the animals’ relocation was announced last year. Chai, at 37 years old, was a decade short of the average life expectancy of an adult elephant in captivity. The Oklahoman reported a zoo spokeswoman said the elephant was behaving normally on Friday with “no obvious signs of infectious disease.”

A necropsy was performed on Saturday, and results will not be known until at least next week. An initial necropsy showed “no definitive cause of death” according to the zoo’s Facebook page. Chai is the second elephant to die at the Oklahoma City Zoo in less than six months. Last October, the four-year-old Asian elephant Malee contracted EEHV1, also known as the “elephant herpes virus.” The zoo opened the new elephant habitat to visitor in March of 2011 at the cost of $13 million.

A vigil for Chai will be held at the zoo on Wednesday, February 3rd at 11:30am. It is organized by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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