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Group says elephants at St. Louis Zoo at risk for herpes

By Julie Bierach, KWMU

SAINT LOUIS, MO – Upon the death of an Asian elephant at the zoo in Springfield, Missouri, from a herpes virus, an animal protection group is identifying the St. Louis Zoo as being at risk.

According to the group, In Defense of Animals, the virus called Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus is responsible for 20% of Asian elephant deaths in North America in the past 25 years.

Suzanne Roy with IDA says the St. Louis Zoo is at a high risk for an outbreak.

"Because three elephants at the zoo have spent time at zoos that have known to be contaminated, including the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield," said Roy.

Over the weekend, a 16 month-old Asian elephant named Nisha, died from EEHV at the Dickerson Park Zoo.

Dr. Eric Miller with the St. Louis Zoo says the elephants are tested routinely and show no signs of active infection.

"I believe that they're using their statements about herpes virus to forward their agenda that they just don't want elephants in zoos, and it's very clearly stated on their site," said Dr. Miller senior vice president and director of zoological operations at the St. Louis Zoo. "We are very concerned about herpes viruses and we're concerned about any viruses that affect our animals, any diseases that affect our animals."

In Defense of Animals is also calling for the halt to breeding and restrictions on the transfer of elephants between zoos.