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Zurich Zoo: Baby elephant died from underdeveloped organs

Baby elephant
The dead baby's mother, Farha, when she was only 15 days old at Zurich Zoo in 2005 Keystone / Eddy Risch

Zurich Zoo has published the first results of an autopsy on a male elephant which died soon after birth at the weekend. These show that the animal was not viable.

Certain organs such as the heart and lungs were not properly developed, the zoo wrote in a statement. For the zoo, however, death is part of life. Animals die practically every day, just as new ones are born, it said. “That is the cycle of life.”

The zoo said it wasn’t planning on changing its elephant breeding programme. Animal rights activists had called for a rethink after the latest death in the elephant enclosure became known. Since 2020, Zurich Zoo has lost six elephant cubs due to health problems, the Fondation Franz Weber said in a statementExternal link.

Farha having a swim


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This content was published on A male elephant has died shortly after birth at Zurich Zoo – the third young animal to do so at the institution in recent years.

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In April and August 2020 two young elephants died because they were trampled on by the other elephants. In 2022 three young animals died owing to a herpes infection.

“Even today, the death of the baby elephant is most likely directly attributable to the conditions of captivity,” the Fondation Franz Weber said.

“Elephants in zoos are confined to small spaces, with no real opportunity for adequate physical exercise, or to forage for or choose food. This leads to many cases of obesity. In fact, Zurich Zoo has a chronic problem with the physical condition of its elephants; in particular, Farha [the baby elephant’s mother] is obese.”

This condition is linked to numerous health problems in elephants, including reproductive problems, such as the weight of the baby elephant at birth and difficulties in giving birth, it said.

“Zurich Zoo, like other zoos, must fundamentally question their keeping of elephants.”

Primate sitting on a rock


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR