An Asian elephant calf is due to be born any day at the St. Louis Zoo, cause for both celebration and concern amid the backdrop of a deadly herpes virus.
The virus has killed about 25 percent of Asian elephants born in North American zoos in the past three decades. Some animal rights activists told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it is irresponsible to breed elephants knowing the presence of the virus in the herd.
But Martha Fischer, who manages the zoo's elephant program, says breeding is important for an animal that is threatened by extinction. She says the zoo does what it can to minimize the risk of infection.
The zoo expects the 42-year-old mother, Ellie, to deliver a female calf.