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July 10, 2012

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Mother Elephant carrying dead fetus may also be at risk of death

San Rafael, Calif. (March 22, 2012) — In Defense of Animals (IDA) is calling for an end to elephant breeding, starting at the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee, following the in utero death of an elephant calf. The calf is still being carried by the mother and may threaten her life. Gina, a 29-year-old African elephant, was due to deliver in August. This would have been the second birth at the zoo. The first, in 2009, ended in tragedy when mother Asali killed her one-day-old calf.

Animals in Print elephant fetus breeding

“Inadequate conditions for elephants in zoos, including lack of space for movement, contribute to high rates of birth complications and, too often, the death of the mother,” said IDA Elephant Campaign Director Catherine Doyle. “We sincerely hope that Gina does not also lose her life due to the irresponsible and inhumane practice of breeding elephants in zoos.”

At least four elephants in U.S. zoos died after the in utero deaths of their calves, some due to massive infection: Babe at the Ft. Worth Zoo, Ibala at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tika at Six Flags-Vallejo, and Ruby at the Phoenix Zoo.

Since 2000, at least 25 elephant pregnancies have ended in stillbirth or other complications, including death of calf during labor, euthanasia of premature calf, failure to thrive, death of mother, and infanticide. The infant mortality rate for elephants in U.S. zoos (ages 0-1) is four times higher than that of documented free-ranging populations in Africa and Asia.

Elephant experts believe that lack of exercise and physical fitness, stress, and excessive weight gain contribute to captive elephants’ inability to successfully give birth to calves. Adverse birthing conditions, including the routine isolation and chaining of laboring elephants at most zoos, may also contribute to the problem.

Elephants in zoos endure a host of problems seen only in captivity, such as high rates of birth complications and infant mortality, infertility, abnormal repetitive behaviors, and deadly conditions including crippling arthritis and foot disease. A study in the journal Science found that elephants in zoos die far younger than those in wild populations.

“Breeding elephants in zoos has nothing to do with conservation because no calf born in a zoo will ever be returned to the wild,” stated Doyle. “Continuing this dangerous practice puts elephant lives at serious risk.”

For more information Contact: Catherine Doyle, 323-301-5730, [email protected]


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