Animal rights activists plan rally outside Oregon Zoo over Lily the elephant's death
PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland residents and the animal rights activists are planning to rally at the Oregon Zoo entrance Saturday evening to protest zoo animal captivity after Lily the elephant died Thursday.
The rally and vigil is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. outside the Oregon Zoo.
Activists plan to protest and “light up the Oregon Zoo with projections, exposing the zoo’s history of elephant mistreatment.”
The activists will represent several groups including Care2, Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants, Out to Pasture Sanctuary, and Portland Animal Save.
"We are heartbroken to hear of Lily the baby elephant's passing at the Oregon Zoo," said Lacey Kohlmoos, organizing strategist at Care2. "No animal deserves to die in captivity.”
The activists will be joined by concerned Portland citizens who say they are angry at the lack of care of the elephants at the Oregon Zoo and who want to see the remaining elephants released to a sanctuary. They also want the zoo to end breeding in captivity.
The Oregon Zoo issued the following statement in response to the rally:
"Our hearts go out to this group along with everyone else who is feeling Lily’s loss today. Our entire community is grief-stricken. We ask that anyone wishing to honor Lily’s memory please join us in supporting the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory to help find a cure for this disease, which is killing young elephants both in our zoos and in the wild."
In its release Friday, the Oregon Zoo said Lily died of endotheliotropic herpesvirus, a rapidly progressing and often fatal disease. Elephant calves are particularly susceptible to it.
EEHV is present in almost all Asian elephants, both in wild populations and those in captivity. Typically, it only causes mild or no symptoms, but for reasons unknown, it can sometimes come out of latency and cause disease.
Once the disease becomes active in calves, it is usually fatal and will often kill them within a few days, even with intensive treatment.
On Wednesday, blood sample analyses from the Smithsonian’s lab revealed the virus was active in Lily at very low levels. The Oregon Zoo said at that time, she showed no signs of the disease.
However, the next morning, Lily began showing signs of lethargy and disinterest in food, prompting veterinary staff to begin immediate treatment with fluids and antiviral medication. She was also given a transfusion.
Despite their efforts, Lily succumbed to the illness.
Currently, there is no vaccination against EEHV. Scientists at the Smithsonian and Johns Hopkins University developed a blood test in 1999 that can detect the virus when it becomes active.
Unfortunately, once the virus is active, there is usually very little time to treat an elephant.
The Oregon Zoo says the virus is harder to identify and diagnose in wild elephants.