Zoo critics didn't just warn it could happen - it would happen they predicted, and they were right: Woodland Park Zoo's 29-year-old artifically inseminated elephant Chai has miscarried.
One of three elephants at the zoo, Chai had been inseminated in January with semen from an elephant named Sneezy at the zoo in Tulsa, the AP reports:
The group Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants said it was unethical to breed Chai because her 6-year-old daughter, Hansa, died last year of a herpes infection. The group fears a new calf would also get the virus.
In May, Alyne Fortgang of the Friends told Seattle Weekly: "Of the Asian elephants in captivity that have contracted herpes, 85 percent of them are now dead. Despite these statistics and Hansa’s gruesome death, WPZ artificially inseminated Chai...the zoo is now a herpes-stricken facility and any calf born there runs an extremely high risk of dying from herpes."
Nancy Pennington, another Friends member, said then: "We were shocked to learn that the zoo hasn’t suspended its breeding program as though nothing has happened. It hasn’t even been a year since Hansa’s death and it appears they’re treating another elephant for herpes."
The zoo told me that wasn't true - that the other elephant, Watoto, was not being treated for herpes. Nonetheless, Dr. Laura Richman, a leading expert on herpes, had warned that the virus was clearly a threat to the zoo birthing program. "Hansa had not left Woodland Park Zoo since she was born, which suggests the virus was passed from one of the zoo's other elephants, either her mother, Chai, or Watoto or Bamboo.”
At this point, the zoo says it doesn't know the cause of the miscarriage yesterday. "Per standard procedure," officials say in a press release, "zoo Animal Health staff sent fetal tissue samples to pathology laboratories for analysis. According to [General Curator Dr. Nancy] Hawkes, it may take several weeks for the zoo to receive results, which may or may not explain the miscarriage."
Said Hawkes: "We are very disappointed and saddened by this outcome. As in all mammals, miscarriages are not uncommon, especially during the first trimester. Our priority is to focus on Chai. We are providing round-the-clock care and monitoring her closely. She’s eating, socializing and behaving normally, all positive signs that Chai is doing well."