Malee, a baby elephant aging 4, died unexpectedly on Thursday at Oklahoma City Zoo. What might have caused its death is almost the same virus that killed another elephant in Seattle in 2007. Although the animal received treatment, it seems that Malee couldn’t make it.
Woodland Park Zoo located in Seattle brought two female elephants to Oklahoma’s Zoo and it is possible that Malee died because of a virus which was taken from the new elephants.
Zoo officials declared that they will make a necropsy in order to find out the exact reason why Malee, the first elephant born at their zoo, died. The animal was treated for a herpes disease which is considered to be fatal for young elephants.
In 2007, Hansa, a 6-year old elephant, died at Seattle’s Zoo as it suffered from the same infection as Malee. After a certain period, the stuff from the zoo moved two elephants, Chai and Bamboo, to the Oklahoma City Zoo. Activists were against this idea, because they considered that the movement may represent a danger for Malee. The reason they opposed the idea was that the virus could be easily transmitted not only to Malee, but also to Achara, her sister.
However, zoo officials didn’t take this warning into consideration. They stated that there is no risk, as a great majority of elephants carry this type of virus.
The virus also represented a danger when Malee’s mother and aunt were born in Missouri Zoo. A veterinarian from the Oklahoma Zoo declared that this virus has been previously detected in the two animals when they underwent a test.
On their website, the officials declared that the zookeepers observed that Malee was moving slowly and that her mouth gained a strange color. She was immediately treated for herpes, but didn’t respond and died 3 hours after the treatment. This virus produces a hemorrhaging in the animal, thus leading to its quick death.
No matter what the cause may be, the event triggered an intense debate on captive animals. Statistics show that the number of elephants dying in captivity is 3 times bigger than those who die in wilderness.
The Oklahoma Zoo seeks to extend its number of elephants, but Alyne Fortgang, member of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, does not approve, stating that “all breeding must stop at zoos which have had elephants who have had, or been exposed to, EEHV,” the deadly virus.
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