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Urge AZA to Help Elephant Lucky

April 25th, 2013 by Nicole Meyer

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Tell AZA: Don’t Let San Antonio Zoo Keep Elephant Lucky Alone

The San Antonio zoo recently made the cruel decision to keep a female elephant named Lucky alone, following the death last month of another elephant, Queenie.

Now, the zoo is asking the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)—a trade industry organization— for a variance that would allow the zoo to maintain a solitary female elephant. Female elephants are profoundly social and naturally live in large, extended family groups. If approved, the variance would bypass the AZA’s requirement that elephants in zoos are kept in groups of three.

This is not the first time the San Antonio Zoo has applied for a variance to house one elephant—and this isn’t first time 53-year-old Lucky is alone. The AZA granted the zoo a temporary one-elephant variance in 2008 after Alport died, and again in 2009, giving the zoo until March of 2010 to find another elephant (Queenie). This is a clear indication that the AZA did not believe it was appropriate for Lucky to remain alone. Surely it is no more appropriate a mere three years later. The AZA states in its guidelines it will not grant variances after September 2016. If Lucky survives that long, what will happen to her after that?

Please join IDA in urging the AZA to step up to the plate and 1) deny the San Antonio Zoo’s one-elephant variance request, and 2) order the San Antonio Zoo to transfer Lucky to another facility in a more natural environment that uses protected contact, will offer her room to roam, natural substrates, and the companionship of other elephants of her own choosing.

The AZA could review the variance request soon, so please write now to the AZA president and CEO, and the chair and coordinator of the AZA’s Elephant Taxon Advisory Group and Species Survival Plan.

Please send an email and follow up with a brief phone call. Please keep both brief and polite. Suggested points to cover are:

• Please intervene on Lucky’s behalf and deny the San Antonio Zoo’s variance request to house her as a solitary elephant.
• Female elephants are profoundly social and naturally live in large, extended family groups. It is cruel to deny an elephant of one her most basic needs—the company of other elephants.
• Please work with the San Antonio Zoo to transfer Lucky to another facility in a more natural environment that uses protected contact, will offer her room to roam, natural substrates, and the companionship of other elephants of her own choosing.

Contact information:

Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Jim Maddy, President and CEO
Email: jmaddy@aza.org
Phone: 301-562-0777

Martha Fischer (St. Louis Zoo)
Chair, AZA Elephant TAG
Coordinator, AZA Asian Elephant and African Elephant SSP
Email: fischer@stlzoo.org
Phone: 314-646-4610

Please also sign onto this petition, hosted by One World Conservation—an advocacy group headquartered in Texas.

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.

It is irresponsible and selfish for the zoo and the AZA to deprive Lucky of one her most basic needs—the company of other elephants. It would be equally irresponsible for the zoo to attempt to bring another elephant into its substandard and antiquated exhibit.

Read IDA’s press release regarding a letter IDA sent to the AZA urging the organization to intervene on Lucky’s behalf.