January 18th, 2011 by Nicole Meyer
IDA has released the 2010 list of the Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants, exposing the hidden suffering of elephants in zoos, where lack of space, unsuitably cold climates and impoverished social groupings condemn Earth’s largest land mammals to lifetimes of deprivation, disease and early death. The list is an SOS for suffering elephants and a call for mammoth change.
Visit www.HelpElephants.com for detailed entries, photos, videos and links to documents with information on IDA actions for zoos on the list, including: San Antonio Zoo (Texas), Edmonton Valley Zoo (Canada), Buttonwood Park Zoo (Mass.), Central Florida Zoo (Fla.), Niabi Zoo (Ill.), Topeka Zoo (Kan.), Honolulu Zoo (Hawaii), Wildlife Safari (Ore.), York’s Wild Kingdom Zoo (Maine) tied with Southwick’s Zoo (Mass.), Pittsburgh Zoo’s ICC (Penn.). San Diego Zoo Safari Park (Calif.) earns a dishonorable mention.
And be sure to read the follow-ups on IDA’s Hall of Shame inductees, including the Los Angeles Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle, Wash.), St. Louis Zoo, El Paso Zoo and Dickerson Park Zoo (Mo.).
For the first time in the seven years that IDA has been producing the Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list, IDA is recognizing a zoo – the Dallas Zoo in Texas – for improvements in elephant welfare and policies that help elephants in need.
A special note about IDA’s recognition of the Dallas Zoo: IDA knows that its new exhibit is still not large enough for elephants, but we felt it was important to recognize Dallas Zoo for its improvements in animal welfare and for its beneficial policies that include taking elephants from worse situations such as circuses. For example, Gypsy was was used for rides and performances, and Kamba and Congo were forced to perform in a circus. In fact, in 2009 Kamba escaped the circus and was injured when struck by a SUV. While elephants Mama and Stumpy did not come from a circus, the Dallas Zoo enabled these older females who have lived together for 38 years to remain together, rather than being sent to separate zoos, as was their companion Ladybird in 2006. And Jenny, who is so emotionally fragile, has a companion in Gypsy. It is very important that the zoo has eschewed breeding, meaning that more elephants will not be born into a captive world that cannot meet their complex needs. Finally, the Dallas Zoo practices “protected contact” management, which is more humane for the elephants and safer for keepers.
In a perfect world, all elephants already in captivity would be living in sanctuary-like conditions and zoos would stop breeding and phase out their elephant programs. But until we see that time (and it will happen!), elephants need to be cared for. The truth is that even if all the elephants in the U.S. were suddenly released from their cages, the nation’s two sanctuaries could not accommodate them all. So we need to push hard for changes in zoos and acknowledge those zoos that are trying harder and making changes that improve elephant welfare.
As for those zoos that refuse to do the right thing and continue to provide completely inadequate conditions for elephants, you’ll see them on next year’s list of the Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants!