October 4th, 2013 by Nicole Meyer
Records Obtained By In Defense Of Animals Confirm Little Rock Zoo Elephant Had Tuberculosis
Little Rock, Ark. (October 4, 2013) – In Defense of Animals (IDA), an international animal protection organization, has obtained records from the Little Rock Zoo confirming that Jewell, an Asian elephant who was euthanized after staff found her collapsed in her stall on September 8th, had tuberculosis (TB). Blood test results show that Zina, the surviving elephant, likely also has TB. IDA is again calling on the Little Rock Zoo to retire Zina to a sanctuary and to close its elephant exhibit for good.
“The inadequate and unnatural conditions at the Little Rock Zoo have contributed to the suffering of elephants for far too long,” said Nicole Meyer, IDA’s Elephant Protection Campaign Director. “Now that active TB is in the mix, the risk this presents to any additional elephants who might be brought in would be unconscionable.”
Samples of Jewell’s lung tissue taken for necropsy showed TB, which is contagious to other elephants as well as potentially to humans. At least 12% of Asian elephants in captivity in the U.S. are infected with TB. Tests for TB are unreliable and most infected elephants don’t show clinical signs of the disease. Stress and impaired immunity play a part in susceptibility to TB.
Records show that Jewell also suffered from a litany of chronic and painful health issues including severe osteoarthritis, ulcers on her feet, abscesses the size of softballs, a left front leg that was markedly swollen due to arthritis, and holes in her jaw that developed a fistula. Disturbing images, also obtained by IDA, appear to show Jewell’s feet shredded by years of infection and tissue removal.
Zina, who is 53, also suffers from similar chronic health issues including a history of foot and joint problems, which are caused by lack of space and exercise and by standing on hard surfaces, and are among the leading causes of death for elephants in zoos. Records for Zina also describe muscle atrophy, partial trunk paralysis, and an infected tusk fissure.
Both elephants were donated to the Little Rock Zoo by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in June, 2011. “Many of their health problems, possibly including TB, originated during their time with the circus,” said Meyer. “But a tiny, outdated zoo enclosure and a cement-floored barn likely contributed to Jewell’s deterioration. If the Little Rock Zoo truly considered Zina’s health and welfare a priority, it would make the compassionate decision to retire her to an environment more conducive to her recovery without delay.”