IDA Urges USDA to Investigate Elephant Death at Baton Rouge Zoo

April 2nd, 2013 by Nicole Meyer


In Defense Of Animals Urges USDA To Investigate Elephant Death At Brec’s Baton Rouge Zoo

Baton Rouge, La. (April 2, 2013) – In Defense of Animals (IDA), an international animal protection organization with more than 100,000 supporters, is urging the USDA to investigate the death of an elephant named Judy at Brec’s Baton Rouge Zoo.

Zookeepers reportedly found Judy dead in her enclosure when they arrived the morning of Friday, March 29th. In media reports, the zoo director claimed he had no idea when Judy died or what caused her death, calling it a “surprise.” Yet, zoo records confirm Judy suffered from arthritis since 1983, starting when she was just 16 years old. Arthritis is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death among captive elephants caused by standing on hard surfaces and inactivity due to lack of space.

“We don’t know what agony Judy endured overnight, or whether her life might have been saved or her suffering lessened,” said Nicole Meyer, Director of IDA’s Elephant Protection Campaign. “Since the zoo was fully aware that Judy suffered from a crippling, painful, and deteriorating disease for three decades, there is no excuse that staff at Brec’s Baton Rouge Zoo apparently had no plan in place to provide Judy with the adequate, humane care she needed in her final hours.”

IDA contends that the zoo’s failure to provide vigilant nighttime monitoring to an elephant known to have chronic health issues, including recent reports of digestive problems, violates provisions of the Animal Welfare Act, including failure to provide adequate veterinary care, proper handling, and adequate staffing.

At age 46, Judy died far short of her natural lifespan. Contrary to the zoo’s claims, Asian elephants can live up to 60 years in the wild, yet elephants in zoos are dying prematurely from diseases directly related to captivity, such as foot infections and arthritis. Judy’s death leaves the zoo’s surviving female elephant, 37-year-old Bozie, alone.

“IDA is asking the USDA to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into Judy’s death and take appropriate enforcement action, if warranted,” said Meyer. “We are also urging Brec’s Baton Rouge Zoo to act in the best interests of the surviving elephant, Bozie, by retiring her to a spacious, natural-habitat environment where she could spend her remaining years in the company of other elephants.”