“It looks like her heart just stopped,” Zoo veterinary director speaks out on death of elephant

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OKLAHOMA - With no clear cause yet determined, the death of Chai still hangs heavy over the staff at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

PETA is now calling for an investigation by the USDA, but zoo officials said the USDA was immediately notified following the untimely death.

She died with no warning, no symptoms.

At the moment, what happened to Chai remains a mystery for the zoo.

"On Saturday, we did a full necropsy on Chai," said Jennifer D'Agostino, director of veterinary services for the zoo. "During the necropsy, we actually found that everything looked really normal."

Chai was found amongst her herd in the midst of breakfast.

"She had a mouth full of food, and she was at the hay feeder, and I think she was just in the middle of eating," D'Agostino said. "It looks like her heart just stopped very, very suddenly."

The death sparked a small PETA protest outside of the zoo on Wednesday.

Those in attendance, urging that the gentle giants be moved to a sanctuary out of state.

"We're hoping the OKC zoo will do what's right and send them to one of the sanctuaries that we have in the United States," said Alissa Finley, protest participant.

But, D'Agostino, who works with and aids the elephants daily, is adamant they're best served in Oklahoma City's multicultural herd.

"In order to have sort of successful breeding programs and to have elephants do well, I really think they need to be in multi-generational herds and larger herds," she said.

Chai is the second elephant death at the zoo during the last few months.

Malee, who was four years old, died back in October from a form of elephant herpes.

Through blood tests, officials were able to determine that Chai did not have the virus.

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