Named & Shamed! We've Released Our Annual List of Ten Worst Zoos for 2017!

Named & Shamed! We've Released Our Annual List of Ten Worst Zoos for 2017!

By some measures, 2017 was a banner year for the wild and captive elephants of the world. By now, at least 44 zoos around the globe, including 29 here in the United States have closed their elephant exhibits for good, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circuses took down their tents for the last time, ending a decades-long history of criminal abuse and exploitation. Prohibitions against the use of elephants for entertainment were passed in Illinois and New York State, and New York City has joined with over 100 other jurisdictions in the United States and Canada legislating partial and even full bans against the use of all wild animals in performances.

The fight to release elephants from cruel imprisonment in zoos is far from over. Zoos follow a losing strategy of sexually abusive captive breeding programs to stock elephant exhibits. It does nothing to further the conservation of this ecologically vital species. While performing elephants are becoming a relic of history and an unkind reminder of our tragic past; elephants in zoos across North America are still being forced to endure tragic lives. They are subjected to barbaric bullhooks, grossly inadequate and unsuitable conditions, egregious disregard for their needs, captivity-caused health problems, cold climates, incompatible companions, and crushing isolation in endless solitary confinement. Despite growing public outcry, an alarming number of wild elephants are being captured and ripped from their families to be beaten and cowed before they are shipped off to zoos throughout the world; 17 of them have ended up in zoos in the United States since 2015. Stand with In Defense of Animals now and tell the cruel zoo industry that we oppose its practices and will no longer believe its lies about elephant conservation.

Once again, In Defense of Animals through its donor-funded elephant advocacy campaign has released the “10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America” list and exposes anew the shocking hidden suffering of captive elephants.

Since 2003, we have  released our annual list naming and shaming the worst offenders and shining a glaring spotlight on premature deaths, brutal breeding procedures, and flagrant violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

This year’s worst zoo losers are:

1. Topeka Zoo, Topeka, Kansas

2. Pittsburgh Zoo and International Conservation Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

3. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Omaha, Nebraska

4. Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Kentucky

5. Oregon Zoo, Portland, Oregon

6. Myrtle Beach Safari, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

7. Two Tails Ranch, Williston, Florida

8. St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, Missouri

9. Natural Bridge Zoo, Rockbridge County, Virginia

10. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Columbia, South Carolina


Edmonton Valley Zoo, Alberta, Canada

Bronx Zoo, Bronx, New York

The zoo industry is desperate to hold on to any shred of remaining credibility - launching campaigns of disinformation, obfuscation, and outright lies, and selling a con that their programs are for "conservation" and the good of the species.

That lie has been put to bed long ago. We don’t believe it and neither should you!

Elephant life spans are shorter in captivity than they are in their wild, even when droughts and poaching are taken into account. Captive elephants suffer and die early due to the myriad health and psychological problems caused by their unnatural and restrictive environments. Unsurprisingly, elephants do not reproduce well in captivity. Heartbreakingly, 4 in 10 baby elephants born in zoos die early. High death rates and low birth rates lead to further tragedy, as zoos plunder juvenile elephants from the wild to restock their exhibits.

The zoo industry is so desperate to have you believe they stand for conservation that they have even taken to calling small, isolated collections of one or two unrelated elephants “herds.” It’s shameful the depths to which this industry will sink to protect its bottom line.

And make no mistake: all zoo tickets fund the conservation con.

Your donation today will help In Defense of Animals fund and support practical solutions for the continued preservation and protection for these intelligent and social animals. Your support helps to fund our annual list and to reveal the shocking truth behind elephants in zoos. Please donate today.


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