March 6th, 2012 by Nicole Meyer
March 14th will mark the five-year anniversary of the death of the elephant Clara, who spent nearly her entire life in confinement at the St. Louis Zoo. To the public she was just another elephant, easily replaced by another who, to them, looked just the same. They didn’t know that she once had a loving mother and protective family from whom she’d been abducted, a homeland in Asia, and a life story of her own to tell.
By the time IDA came to know Clara prior to her being euthanized in 2007, intense confinement at the St. Louis Zoo had taken its toll on her. Living in tiny yards and standing on concrete floors left her with debilitating arthritis and painful chronic foot infections. Instead of removing Clara from these conditions, the zoo continued to keep her in the very environment that was the cause of her problems and that continued to slowly destroy her.
At the end of her life, Clara was so debilitated she could barely walk or stand. She shifted constantly from one painful foot to another, unable to bear weight on either one for more than a few moments at a time. Her walk was excruciatingly slow. Among the elephants, Clara was notable because she was forced to wear sandals to protect the eroded soles of her feet. IDA had called for the St. Louis Zoo to send Clara to a sanctuary the year before her death, but our plea for mercy fell on deaf ears.
If zoos cannot provide the space and natural conditions elephants need, then they should not have elephants at all. Elephants like Clara have paid the price for zoos’ unwillingness to provide what science tells us they need: the space to walk miles every day, large families with whom to spend their lives, and rich natural environments.
Please speak out for the elephants in zoos in your community.
Click here to see a video of Clara and other elephants at the St. Louis Zoo.
SPECIAL NOTE: This weekend, St. Louis activists will remember Clara with a special memorial on Sunday, March 11, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. at the entrance of the St. Louis Zoo.