OKC Zoo Faces Criticism Over Elephant Death, USDA Investigating

Wednesday, February 3rd 2016, 5:01 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

Scientists are still trying figure out why an elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo died over the weekend. This as the zoo continues to face criticism from animal rights groups over the death of Chai.

Protestors from PETA lined up outside the zoo entrance Wednesday morning calling for the zoo to close down its elephant exhibit.

“What we’re hoping is this zoo will finally see that the right thing to do for these elephants is to release them into sanctuary,” said Alissa Finley with PETA.

Protestors point out this is the second elephant to die at the zoo in less than six months. Still, they aren't blaming the zoo for either death.

1/30/16 Related Story: Zoo Shocked By Death of Chai The Elephant

“I know the zoo has done their best to take care of these animals,” said Finley. “The problem is that there are limitations the zoo can’t get beyond.”

However, a Seattle-based animal advocacy group Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants thinks the zoo may be responsible for Chai's death. That group protested for months to keep Chai and Bamboo from moving here from Seattle. They filed a complaint with the USDA and asked for an investigation. On Tuesday, inspectors from the USDA were at the zoo.

2/2/16 Related Story: Seattle Group Asks USDA To Investigate Elephant's Death

“They want to look at my medical records, see what we found on the necropsy, look at photographs, we do have temperature parameters, standard operating procedures,” said Dr. Jennifer D 'Agostino the Director of Veterinary Services for the Oklahoma City Zoo. “They just want to make sure we were following all of those guidelines properly.”

D 'Agostino said they notified the USDA shortly after they discovered Chai’s death. That is standard operating procedure in cases like this.

“We do that for any major animal death or anything like that because they need to be in the look and we need to make sure we’re in compliant with the animal welfare act and all of those animal regulations as well.”

D 'Agostino said she checked over the other elephants and right now it doesn’t appear they are in danger. She said the zoo says when they found Chai on Saturday morning she was underneath her hay feeder and it looked like she was chewing her breakfast when she died suddenly.