Oklahoma City Zoo releases Chai's necropsy report, finds bacterial infection in elephant's blood

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma City Zoo says an independent necropsy has identified a non-contagious bacterial infection as the likely culprit in Chai's death.

The Asian elephant was transferred from Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo to the Oklahoma City Zoo in May 2015, despite an outcry from some animal groups.

They argued the 37-year-old animal should have been transferred to an accredited sanctuary.

Chai was found dead on January 30.

An initial necropsy conducted by zoo veterinarians failed to identify a cause of death, but noted a significant loss in body fat in the day's leading up to Chai's death.

The zoo says the elephant's care team was aware of the weight loss and supplemented Chai's nutrition with additional food.

Caretakers said Chai's appetite was excellent, and her behavior and appearance was normal apart from the weight loss.

“Despite the attentive care provided, animals are very skilled at masking symptoms. It’s innate,” said Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino, director of veterinary services.

“We learn something new from every situation, every necropsy. It’s part of our commitment to help these animals in our care to learn as much as we can to help them and their counterparts in the wild.”

The zoo says the bacterial infection was likely a chronic issue and is ordering further tests to determine the disease.

That process could take several weeks.

Following the elephant's death in late January, advocacy group Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants filed a complaint with the USDA, calling for an additional investigation.

PETA said Oklahoma City Zoo's elephant exhibits should be shut down immediately.