Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Zoo's Efforts Help Elephants Survive and Thrive

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Zoo's Efforts Help Elephants Survive and Thrive

Article excerpt

The March 26 story about the St. Louis Zoo's impending birth of an elephant calf left out a number of critical facts.

The piece was about the extraordinary efforts of our zoo's elephant care team to prepare for another elephant birth. A good deal of focus was placed by the reporter on elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus EEHV that can affect elephant calves.

Missing, however, is the fact that this virus affects elephants in the wild as well as in zoos. In fact, this virus co-evolved with elephants over millions of years. This is nothing new to elephants. The ground-breaking science that first identified this virus was a major discovery made by a zoo the Smithsonian's National Zoo.

Activists with an anti-zoo agenda argue against breeding elephants because elephant calves might develop this virus. What they completely ignore is our obligation to learn as much as we can about elephants in human care to serve the conservation needs of their endangered counterparts in the wild. EEHV is a threat to wild and zoo elephants. Progress toward effective treatment protocols (and, we hope, a vaccine in the future) is being made possible by funding and collaboration by zoos and other professional elephant care facilities.

Those who argue against breeding elephants also ignore the significant progress we have made in responding to this virus. EEHV- related calf mortality has dropped significantly over the last decade as we learn more about this disease and its treatment. Zoos, like ours, are in the vanguard in seeking answers not only to this disease but also to the origin and treatment of many others. Almost everything we know about wild animal medicine has come from zoos.

We wish the article had devoted more attention to our many efforts to ensure that elephants survive and thrive. Long before the most recent outbreak of poaching in Africa, our zoo was funding community conservation efforts to protect elephants in Kenya. Before extremist anti-zoo organizations discovered it was profitable to their fundraising efforts to engage in the questionable practice of criticizing elephant care at zoos without understanding the facts, our zoo was advancing elephant welfare in the U. …

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