Coal Valley, Ill. (January 17, 2012) – The 2011 list of the Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants, released yesterday by In Defense of Animals (IDA), once again exposes the hidden suffering of elephants in zoos, where lack of space, unsuitably cold climates and unnatural conditions condemn Earth’s largest land mammals to lifetimes of deprivation, disease and early death. The list is in its eighth year.
A promising trend toward the closure of inadequate elephant displays continued in 2011 and includes zoos that have appeared on IDA’s annual list. The most recent are the Central Florida Zoo and Southwick’s Zoo in Massachusetts. The Toronto Zoo’s appearance on the 2009 list sparked a campaign that led to the closure of that exhibit in 2012. This brings the number of zoos that have closed or will close their elephant exhibits to 22, and zoo experts report that the number is expected to rise.
The Niabi Zoo appears for the second time on IDA’s list with the following entry:
Niabi Zoo (Coal Valley, Illinois) – Nothing to brag about. This small zoo brags that it is the only facility with elephants in Illinois, but it should be ashamed of the grossly inadequate conditions in which it keeps them. Elephants Babe and Sophie have a history of painful chronic foot infections, and one of the elephants had a positive reaction on a blood test for tuberculosis, a serious disease that is transmissible to humans and other elephants. The zoo is trying to raise $4 million to construct a new exhibit that still would be too small to meet the elephants’ immense needs. And the elephants would continue to spend the duration of the long, freezing winters inside a cramped barn. Given the possible presence of an infectious disease, it would not be wise to bring in another elephant. Zoo visitors and the animals would be better served if the zoo ended its elephant program and invested its resources in upgrading other exhibits.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park (California) earns yet another dishonorable mention, and the San Antonio Zoo (Texas) becomes the newest inductee into the Worst Zoos for Elephants Hall of Shame, a special honor reserved for the worst repeat offenders.
Another result of IDA’s relentless advocacy for elephants in zoos has been the creation of an historic management policy by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The new policy calls for an end to handling that requires keepers to share the same unrestricted space with elephants. If the AZA is serious about enforcing this policy, it will facilitate an end to the use of the bullhook, a weapon used by keepers to threaten and often inflict painful physical punishment.
“IDA’s Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list illustrates the many serious problems that condemn elephants to lives of misery in zoos,” said IDA Elephant Campaign Director Catherine Doyle. “These include abnormal repetitive behaviors, hyper-aggression, social isolation, and deadly conditions such as foot and joint disease caused by lack of space and movement.”
“Scientific research has shown what elephants need: space to walk miles every day, large families with whom to spend their lives, and rich natural environments,” said Doyle. “Caging elephants in zoo displays is not humane and it is not conservation.”
For more information, please visit www.HelpElephants.com.
In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization located in San Rafael, Calif. dedicated to protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitat through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in India, Africa, and rural Mississippi.