Earlier this summer, Phil, Jaye, my brother Will, and I headed out to the Fritz Park petting zoo to check it out. For some reason, Jaye was not at ALL interested in petting the animals on the day we went to check out the petting zoo. I think this “sheep” was the only animal we could convince her to touch all morning! The 2008 list of the Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants, released today by In Defense of Animals (IDA), comes just one month after the zoo world was stung by a scientific study condemning the deadly track record of zoos with elephants. Based on nominations made by the public, IDA’s 2008 list spotlights the perils that elephants face in zoos.
No luck for Lucky The San Antonio Zoo continues to hold its only surviving Asian elephant, the woefully misnamed Lucky, in solitary confinement since the death of her companion, Alport, in November 2007. Breeding ground for misery Elephants breed poorly in zoos, yet another indicator that zoo conditions are inadequate for the Earth’s largest land mammals. Learn about the wild – spending, that is The Los Angeles Zoo has a terrible history with elephants.
Stacking a deadly deck for elephants Asha and Chandra were born at the Dickerson Park Zoo (see their Hall of Shame listing below), where they were cruelly separated from their mothers at ages three (Asha) and two and a half (Chandra) and shipped to the Oklahoma City Zoo. Global focus on a troubled elephant The Dallas Zoo received by far the most nominations from the public for the Ten Worst Zoos list due to its widely-publicized mishandling of its lone surviving elephant, Jenny.
Bad deal for elephants Four of the elephants at the Lowry Park Zoo were imported from Swaziland to Lowry Park, where they are condemned to live in a barren 2.5-acre enclosure far different from their 18,000-square-acre home in the Hlane National Park in their native Africa. This year, IDA’s Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list includes a special category for repeat offenders that have made little or no progress improving conditions for elephants. This zoo admitted that its three-quarter acre elephant exhibit was too small, yet the next year a new zoo director convinced the City of El Paso that the very same exhibit was acceptable for its two elephants, Juno and Savannah. This amusement park has a hideous history of elephant suffering and deaths, showing complete disregard for the health and well-being of the seven elephants forced to live in the shadow of roller coaster rides, amidst noisy, rowdy crowds. Weighing nearly 100 pounds, sporting a very fluffy tail and ready to capture dinner with a tongue that is about two feet long, the zoo now has a giant anteater. The new giant anteater habitat will be home to one for only a short time – the zoo will soon be getting a female giant anteater. While the giant anteater isn’t considered to be near extinction, the International Union for Conservation of Nature them as vulnerable due to habitat loss and hunting. Even though Jaye wasn’t excited about petting real animals (which is strange since she LOVED petting the goats at the Big Orange Pumpkin Farm last fall), we still had a great day.
But I’m a city girl through and through so the Fritz Park petting zoo will have to do.
In a groundbreaking peer-reviewed study published December 2008, the prestigious journal Science documented that elephants in zoos live dramatically shorter lives than their wild counterparts. But the Houston Zoo’s Asian elephant breeding record is by far the worst in the country.
Of the 13 who died there since 1975, more than half did not live 20 years, about a third of an elephant’s natural lifespan. Now Oklahoma has temporarily shipped both to the Tulsa Zoo for breeding while it expands its elephant exhibit. 6 spot because of their repeated efforts to artificially inseminate two breeding-age females, Woodland Park Zoo’s Chai, age 30, and Shanthi, age 33, at the National Zoo, despite the known risks to mother and calf. The zoo was blasted by elephant advocates from around the globe after it announced it would move this extremely traumatized elephant to a drive-thru safari park in Mexico, despite her serious aversion to noise and vehicles.
Asian elephant Clara was euthanized at age 54, after suffering for years from crippling arthritis and chronic foot disease, the result of decades spent in the zoo’s tiny exhibit. Als ihr ein Stipendium fA?rs College zugesprochen wird, entscheidet sie sich fA?r eine Abtreibung. The new digs feature a large grassy area, swimming pool, sand and mulch for digging, trees and old logs to house and allow searching for their ant treats. The giant anteaters use their long tongues and sticky saliva extract up to 30,000 insects and other edibles per day — from logs and nests. Earlier this summer, we discovered the Fritz Park Petting Zoo, a free petting zoo in Irving, TX. There were lots of animals to look at: cows, chickens, goats, a turkey, sheep, horses, donkeys, ducks, and others I might not be remembering. Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoos were related to birth complications, including two mothers and three calves. Free-ranging elephants live in large matriarchal family groups in which females remain with their mothers for life.


The zoo’s solitary elephant Billy incessantly bobs his head up and down, a sign of psychological distress.
The Buffalo Zoo spent over $1 million to bring the indoor quarters for its three elephants to the inadequate 1,800 square feet standard, in which they will spend the majority of their lives, including prolonged hours during Buffalo’s frigid winters.
IDA has long denounced the standard but cruel practice of separating mothers and calves and shipping elephants from zoo to zoo, especially considering that in the wild female elephants remain with their mothers for life.
Bozie and Judy share a tiny display yard, and are chained in their concrete-floored barn during cold or inclement weather. Both elephants have lost calves to the deadly elephant herpesvirus, and the Woodland Park Zoo acknowledges that there is a greater than one-in-five chance that any calf produced by Chai would also be stricken with the fatal disease. On closer inspection this facility is a sterling example of just how miserable life can be for male elephants in zoos. Buckling under the fierce public outcry and intense media scrutiny, the zoo canceled the move but has resisted calls to send Jenny to an elephant sanctuary where she could live with other African elephants in a spacious, natural environment. Now the architects of that import, Lowry Park Zoo director Lex Salisbury and director of collections Larry Killmar (formerly with San Diego Zoo), have been caught red-handed with some dirty dealing on the domestic side.
Five calves were stricken with the highly fatal elephant herpesvirus, with all but one dying from the deadly infection. This zoo also earns its place in the Hall of Shame due to its despicable history of elephant beatings.
Clara’s companion Pearl continues to languish at the zoo, becoming increasingly debilitated. Five of those elephants were euthanized as a direct result of the same foot and joint disorders that afflict at least two elephants there currently, painful ailments caused by the cramped and barren exhibit. The petting farm is only open for June and July, so plan a trip for this weekend or next week! The peacock was my favorite, even though I couldn’t convince him to fan his tail out for me.
Birth complications are common and deadly in captivity, where tiny displays prevent the extensive movement elephants need to keep fit.
Unlucky Lucky has been alone for over a year, and without another Asian elephant since 2004.
Yet the zoo wants to construct a $42 million exhibit that still won’t provide the space and natural conditions elephants need to live longer and healthier lives.
By contrast, free-ranging elephants walk tens of miles a day and are active for 20 out of every 24 hours.
The recent study in Sciencemagazine proves that early maternal separation and inter-zoo transfers cut short the lives of elephants in zoos. Forty-one-year-old Judy has suffered from arthritis since she was 16, and 33-year-old Bozie has frequent foot problems. In addition, both elephants are very near the age when female elephants in zoos are no longer bred due to a higher risk of birth complications.
Of all the zoos on this list, Dallas has the best chance to redeem itself by following through on a plan to build a new elephant complex for Jenny and other already captive elephants taken from worse conditions. Both men were suspended from the AZA and Salisbury was forced to resign from his zoo post after a Tampa city audit found they had illegally transferred animals from the zoo to Salisbury’s privately-owned animal safari park.
Six Flags forces elephants to perform in shows and give rides through coercion and physical punishment with a bullhook, a steel-tipped device similar to a fireplace poker used to poke, prod and beat elephants into compliance.
For the second year in a row, a young elephant was lost to a deadly infectious disease that is striking captive elephants in zoos. The zoo refuses to do right by Lucky and send her to a sanctuary where she can live in a spacious, natural environment with others of her species, even though San Antonio’s plan is to replace Lucky with African elephants.
At the Houston Zoo, the deadly disease has killed six of eight live-born elephants, including two-year-old Mac last November, and may be associated with six stillbirths. In the past 10 years, zoos around the globe have spent or committed an estimated $500 million to build or renovate displays for about 250 captive elephants, despite the gross lack of evidence that these changes will improve health or longevity. While we’re glad that Buki, Surapa and Jothi are no longer chained overnight, life has not meaningfully changed for these elephants who continue to live in a cramped display and are controlled by keepers who use cruel, circus-style training methods.
If that weren’t bad enough, the Oklahoma Zoo is recklessly breeding Chandra, despite the fact that she was one of a very few elephants to survive the highly fatal elephant herpesvirus and may be a carrier.
A zoo manual warns keepers to maintain dominance over the elephants at all times, including the use of physical discipline. Worth holds two male elephants, Groucho and Casey, in small, separate outdoor yards where they display severe zoochotic behaviors such as repetitive head bobbing and swaying – abnormal behaviors not seen in wild elephants. With its southwestern climate and commitment to humane handling, Dallas could fill a pressing need for improved housing and care for captive U.S.


Lowry Park Zoo’s first appearance on this list is timely as other zoos ponder importing elephants from their native lands. Only after the death of 16-month-old Nisha in December 2007 did the Dickerson Park Zoo put a temporary hold on elephant breeding. Another elephant, Sri, has survived despite her failure to expel a fetus that died in utero in November 2005. Six Flags needs to acknowledge that forcing elephants to live in highly unnatural conditions that cause them to suffer and die prematurely is not entertaining or fun. Two-year-old Mac became the sixth elephant born at the Houston Zoo to die from the highly fatal elephant herpesvirus. Experience has shown that solitary elephants can turn into social butterflies in sanctuary settings, yet the San Antonio Zoo stubbornly continues to isolate Lucky in an outdated exhibit far too small to meet her natural needs. Despite this grim history, the Houston Zoo continues to recklessly breed elephants, playing Russian roulette with the lives of these highly endangered animals.
By contrast, the Kenya Wildlife Service protects tens of thousands of free-ranging elephants on an annual budget of only $20 million. What they really need is the space and natural conditions that can only be found at an elephant sanctuary. Virtually nothing is known about the disease and its mechanisms for transmission and infection. By paying cash-poor nations hundreds of thousands of dollars for elephants, these zoos are setting a terrible precedent for international conservation by promoting the commercial trade in this threatened species. Meanwhile the four adult female Asian elephants at this zoo languish in a cramped one-acre exhibit and concrete-floored barn. The San Antonio Zoo can change this sad elephant’s luck by moving her to a sanctuary without delay.
Mac’s mother Shanti is again pregnant, potentially putting yet another young elephant at risk of a horrific death. Those free-ranging elephants, despite facing the elements, habitat loss, and poachers, live an average three times as long as their cousins held captive in zoos. The Buffalo Zoo makes IDA’s Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list for the second consecutive year.
Building on the tragic histories of Asha and Chandra, the Oklahoma City Zoo is stacking a deadly deck for these elephants and any unfortunate offspring. If visitors are to learn anything at this zoo, it should be about the need to rescue its two elephants and send them to a sanctuary.
Zoos won’t turn the tide on elephant welfare as long as they continue to treat these intelligent and complex individuals as little more than breeding machines to produce baby elephants at any cost.
Few zoos even attempt to hold males because they are more difficult and dangerous to handle than females and require specialized facilities and care. Time is of the essence for Jenny, who, at present, is still alone in a cramped and unnatural zoo exhibit. Dickerson earns additional Hall of Shame stripes for its 2001 beating of the elephant named Chai, who lost 1000 pounds, and a history of painful foot problems, psychological problems, aggression and premature deaths that have plagued its elephants over the years.
Vom minderjA¤hrigen Vater des Kindes getrennt, lernt sie Aaron kennen, der so ganz anders ist als andere Gleichaltrige. The Houston Zoo claims that breeding must continue so the disease can be further studied, meaning that it knowingly is engaging in a grisly experiment in which 75% of the subjects have died. Fortunately, the City of Los Angeles is questioning the logic of its staggeringly expensive elephant exhibit, and will vote in January on canceling the project and sending Billy to a large, natural-habitat sanctuary. Those that do hold males usually relegate them to lives of isolation, despite their social nature (zoos often dishonestly portray male elephants as completely solitary).
The Los Angeles Zoo makes IDA’s Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list for the fourth time, plus an additional time when it received our Dishonorable Mention. The largest yard available to the zoo’s lone male elephant, an 8,000 pound bull named Raja, is even smaller. The plight of male elephants has long been a dirty zoo secret, and one that won’t soon go away considering that half of all elephant births are males.
In addition to being crammed into tiny zoo yards, the zoo’s elephants spend long stretches indoors in concrete floored stalls at night, and on cold Midwest winter days.



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