April 25th, 2013 by Nicole Meyer
In Defense Of Animals Urges Zoo Agency To Deny One-Elephant Variance To San Antonio Zoo
San Antonio, Texas (April 25, 2013) – In Defense of Animals (IDA), an international animal protection organization, sent a letter today to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), urging the trade-industry organization to deny a variance request submitted by the San Antonio Zoo to maintain a solitary female elephant.
Zoo leaders announced this week their decision to keep an elephant named Lucky alone, following the death last month of a second elephant, Queenie. Now, the zoo is asking the AZA for a one-elephant variance, to support the zoo in depriving this profoundly social elephant of one of her most basic needs—the company of other elephants.
“We’re not surprised by the San Antonio Zoo’s cruel, selfish decision to keep Lucky as a solitary elephant,” said Nicole Meyer, Director of IDA’s Elephant Protection Campaign. “What is shocking is the blatant disregard for the welfare of this individual elephant. The decision to deny Lucky the opportunity to live her remaining years in the company of other elephants in a more suitable environment is driven by stubbornness and a complete lack of compassion on the part of the zoo’s leaders.”
This cycle of acquiring elephants, and requesting variances when one dies, appears to be an ongoing problem at the San Antonio Zoo, which has been sanctioned before by the AZA. The AZA issued the zoo a variance in 2008 after another elephant died, and again in 2009, but has stated it will not issue variances after 2016. The AZA has long recognized that female elephants should not be housed alone, suggesting that zoos hold a minimum of three female elephants.
“If the San Antonio Zoo refuses to do right by Lucky, the least the AZA can do now is step up to the plate and order the zoo to send Lucky to a facility that can meet her physical and social needs,” said Meyer. “The zoo’s claim that Lucky prefers to be alone is unfounded and a standard, misleading excuse. Elephants who have been similarly deprived of adequate companionship have bonded quickly with other elephants once they were moved to a more natural, spacious habitat and able to choose their own companions.”
The San Antonio Zoo has long been a focus of IDA for its grossly inadequate elephant exhibit and for cramming Earth’s largest land mammals into a space smaller than many backyards, creating an unhealthy and dangerous situation. At a meager half acre, the exhibit has room for barely one elephant, much less two or more. The zoo has appeared on IDA’s annual list of Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants four times and remains on the Hall of Shame.