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Niabi Zoo Elephants Banished to Little Rock

October 23rd, 2013 by Nicole Meyer

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In Defense Of Animals Slams Zoo Industry For Sending Elephants From One Substandard Zoo To Another

Little Rock, Ark. (October 22, 2013) – In Defense of Animals (IDA), an international animal protection organization, is calling the transfer of two elephants from the Niabi Zoo in Illinois to the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas, yet “another tragic example of how the zoo industry routinely compromises the health and welfare of elephants.”

Working under a veil of secrecy, the Niabi Zoo trucked two female Asian elephants, Sophie and Babe, to the Little Rock Zoo, which was only announced yesterday, after the fact. The move is disturbing because both zoos were in a position to make a positive change for the elephants. The Niabi Zoo agreed this past summer to send the elephants to another facility after it lost accreditation under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in 2012 largely due to its decrepit elephant exhibit, while the Little Rock Zoo was recently left with one Asian elephant, Zina, following the death of another elephant named Jewell.

“IDA had hoped that the Niabi and Little Rock zoos would make the compassionate and responsible decision to retire Sophie, Babe, and Zina to a sanctuary. Instead, the zoo industry likely handed the elephants a death sentence by condemning all three to the Little Rock Zoo,” said Nicole Meyer, Director of IDA’s Elephant Protection Campaign. “The Niabi Zoo hails the transfer as a major improvement, but if cramming three elephants into yet another substandard exhibit is the zoo industry’s answer to improving animal welfare, this is yet another tragic example of how the AZA routinely compromises the health and welfare of elephants.”

Both zoos and the AZA ignored pleas from IDA and thousands of supporters worldwide calling on them to do the right thing by retiring the elephants to a sanctuary. At ages 43 and 37, both Sophie and Babe have chronic health problems, including arthritis and painful foot abscesses, which will likely continue to worsen at the Little Rock Zoo. Zina, at age 53, also suffers from chronic health issues, and medical records obtained by IDA indicate the strong possibility that she has tuberculosis, which was also found in Jewell’s preliminary necropsy report. Appallingly, a consultant to the Niabi Zoo strongly recommended Little Rock in part because the zoo still uses bullhooks and handles elephants through domination.

“The Niabi Zoo sacrificed Sophie and Babe’s welfare in order to regain AZA-accreditation, while the Little Rock Zoo is desperate to hang onto its elephant exhibit, no matter at what cost to the elephants,” said Meyer. “These elephants had a chance at a better future at a sanctuary, but the zoo industry’s selfish indifference to their well-being just sentenced them to more of the same.”

Read IDA’s press release about tuberculosis at the Little Rock Zoo here.

Read IDA’s press release asking for a USDA investigation into Jewell’s death at the Little Rock Zoo here.

Read a previous IDA action alert for Sophie and Babe at the Niabi Zoo here.

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