MEDIA RELEASE: Zoos Cancel Abusive Elephant Transfer

MEDIA RELEASE: Zoos Cancel Abusive Elephant Transfer



FORT WORTH, Texas and HAMILTON, Ontario (March 5, 2021) – Fort Worth Zoo in Texas has canceled a $2 million deal with African Lion Safari in Ontario, Canada - a revelation that came to light after the zoos were ranked as #1 and #2 on the list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America by In Defense of Animals. Two mother elephants have been spared separation from their two young calves.

“We welcome news that Fort Worth Zoo’s plans to purchase Nellie and Emily from African Lion Safari have been canceled,” said In Defense of Animals Elephant Campaign Coordinator, Will Anderson. “This deal would have caused many elephants a great deal of trauma and put a dangerous price on the head of every wild and captive elephant, including those at circuses which profit from sales to zoos. Elephants die faster in captivity than they can reproduce, leading desperate zoos to buy elephants and cruelly separate elephants for breeding purposes. Zoo exhibits cause elephants misery and diseases because they are not suited to captivity. We encourage all zoos to acknowledge the suffering caused to elephants by captivity and to commit to shutting down their exhibits. We recommend one final transfer for all the elephants at Fort Worth Zoo and African Lion Safari: to a GFAS- accredited sanctuary where they will never be bred, exhibited to tourists, or face the threat of being separated from their friends and family.”

Fort Worth Zoo was ranked as the #2 Worst Zoo for its plans to buy two female Asian elephants from African Lion Safari — a theme park in Ontario, Canada, which is listed as this year’s #1 Worst Zoo for Elephants. Fort Worth Zoo intended to breed eight-year-old Nellie and fifteen-year-old Emily. The Zoo would have paid an additional $200,000 to African Lion Safari if a calf were born soon after their arrival.

Had this sale gone through, it would have been the most lucrative elephant deal ever known. Dirty deals like this one expose the zoo industry's powerful role in driving U.S. and international trade in traumatized elephants who suffer from serial “transfer trauma,” abusive breeding, and endless captivity. It would have seen Nellie separated from her mother, and Emily from her six-year-old calf, Gigi. In the wild, females stay with their families their entire lives. Recent research has found that male elephants in the wild also have their own essential social structure that zoos violate.

Numerous zoos on 2020’s 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants list knowingly engage in “transfer abuse,” repeatedly trafficking elephants from place to place. Transfers are known to cause stress to elephants, and scientific research associates them with repetitive stereotypic behaviors known as “zoochosis.” It is considered “an important indicator of compromised welfare” and is exhibited by multiple elephants in North American zoos.

African Lion Safari is ranked as the #1 Worst Zoo for acting as an elephant trafficking hub. The freezing-cold Canadian theme park imprisons more Asian elephants in North America than any other facility, with 16 Asian elephants who have been forced to produce 21 calves. The facility is set in a totally unsuitable cold climate and is the epitome of an elephant exploitation business. Not only does African Lion Safari breed elephants for sale and cause “transfer abuse” trauma through repeated shipments, it dominates elephants with the threat of bullhooks, forces them to perform unnatural circus tricks, and endangers children and adults by encouraging them to ride elephants for profit.

African Lion Safari is ranked as #1 Worst Zoo for Elephants in North America. Photo: Boris Kasimov

Fort Worth Zoo's financial offer incentivizes circuses and theme parks like African Lion Safari to increase their rate of cruel and often invasive breeding procedures so they may sell the babies who survive into lifetimes of captive confinement. It also encourages countries with wild elephants to kidnap them from the wild and sell them into servitude.

Elephant trafficking takes place on a national and global scale. At least three male elephants now at Fort Worth Zoo came from these sordid sources: Casey and Romeo from Ringling Circus, and Colonel Tusko, who was born at African Lion Safari, then sent to Carson and Barnes Circus at around five years old, then to that circus' sham Endangered Ark Foundation “sanctuary” before going back to African Lion Safari and in 2013, to Fort Worth Zoo. The females at Fort Worth Zoo fare no better. Rasha was kidnapped from the wild in Thailand in 1971 and transferred at least five times before arriving at Fort Worth Zoo.

“We are thrilled that for a second year running, our 10 Worst Zoos list has played a major role in highlighting the forced separation of bonded elephants,” said In Defense of Animals President, Dr. Marilyn Kroplick. “Some zoos like African Lion Safari are operating like elephant-trafficking cartels. Elephant suffering is a baked-in part of captivity and we hope that Canada will pass Sen. Sinclair’s ‘Jane Goodall Act’ to end zoo abuse of elephants, and give them a better chance at survival in the wild where they belong.”

In Defense of Animals encourages people to avoid visiting any elephant attraction and urges zoos to phase out their exhibits and send elephants to accredited sanctuaries where their needs are prioritized over profits.

10 Worst Zoos 2020:

  1. African Lion Safari, Hamilton, ON
  2. Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, TX
  3. Pittsburgh Zoo, Pittsburgh, PA
  4. Seneca Park Zoo, Rochester, NY
  5. Monterey Zoo, Salinas, CA
  6. Myrtle Beach Safari, Myrtle Beach, SC
  7. Natural Bridge Zoo, Natural Bridge, VA
  8. Memphis Zoo, Memphis, TN
  9. Cameron Park Zoo, Waco, TX
  10. Hogle Zoo, Salt Lake City, UT

Dishonorable Mention: 

Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Syracuse, NY


Discover the full list of the 10 Worst Zoos For Elephants in North America 2020:


### NOTES ###


Fleur Dawes,, 415-879-6879

Will Anderson,, 206-715-6414

Fort Worth Zoo Images (credit per filename):

African Lion Safari Images (credit per filename):


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In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with over 250,000 supporters and a 30-year history of fighting for animals, people and the environment through education, campaigns and hands-on rescue facilities in India, Africa, and rural Mississippi.

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