Baby Elephant Dies in Marine Park

— A baby elephant on loan from a Missouri zoo died Wednesday, months after an elephant expert says she warned the zoo the animal was too young to be separated from its mother.

Kala, a 2-year-old Asian elephant at Six Flags Marine World, was on loan from the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Mo. He died of a viral infection.

Jane Garrison from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Kala’s stress from being separated from his mother compromised his immune system and led to his infection and death. Kala came to the Vallejo park in May. He was the youngest of the facility’s eight elephants.

Garrison said male elephants generally remain with their mothers until they are 14 years old.

Zoo: Accusations Absurd

Jeff Jouett, a spokesman for Six Flags Marine World, calls the claims absurd.

“This baby elephant died from a virus,” Jouett said Wednesday night. “Kala was not stressed. He spent time with his aunties just as any animal would in the wild.”

Jouett said Kala was well adjusted and that other baby elephants have died of the same infection while nursing from their mothers.

Kala died from endothelial inclusion body disease, a herpes virus specific to elephants.

The virus has claimed at least nine elephant deaths in North America in the past 15 years, including one at the Missouri Zoo and one at the Oakland Zoo.