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Pittsburg Zoo and Its International Elephant Center Set to Jail Infant Elephant

Pittsburg Zoo and Its International Elephant Center Set to Jail Infant Elephant

Pittsburg Zoo and Its International Elephant Center Set to Jail Infant Elephant

While the Pittsburgh Zoo and its International Elephant Center are ready to celebrate the June delivery of their first elephant birth in eleven years, we’re sad knowing that this pregnancy was forced on Seeni and that her calf will be condemned to a life in captivity. One goal of this Zoo and its Center mirrors that of the zoo industry: they want to change the definition of “elephant herd” in our minds by implying confined elephants in North America deprived of their natural social choices and vast elephant ecosystems in Africa can still be called herds.

Captive elephants do not have the opportunity to be elephants in the true sense. Captivity can never replicate ecosystems and the infinite possibilities and complexities necessary for elephants to live physically, socially and psychologically fulfilling lives that these ecosystems provide. With a collection of some eleven elephants in two locations, plus two on loan to other zoos, these facilities desperately wants to overcome the fact that the US population of captive elephants is not self-sustaining because of zoo industry captivity-related mortality and failed reproduction. Specifically, elephants in captivity don't contribute to conservation since elephants in zoos are suffering and dying faster than they can reproduce. 

In addition to Pennsylvania’s cold winters, Seeni’s anticipated newborn elephant will be exposed to International Elephant Center's refusal to stop using bull hooks on elephants as other zoos have done. A bull hook is a metal tool with a pointed end and hook shape used to dominate elephants through physical and psychological intimidation and domination. Certainly, the Zoo’s most unusual violation of elephant care was the use of dogs to control elephants who are naturally afraid of them. The USDA/APHIS ordered both facilities to stop this practice in 2015. The Zoo demonstrated just how out of touch it is with elephant needs when its President and CEO Barbara Baker opposed a proposed ban on traveling circus acts that used elephants even though "her" zoo would have been exempt:

Money raised by the Zoo, the Center, and the zoo industry to increase the number of elephant lives doomed to live in lifelong captivity should instead go to wild elephants in Africa where it is desperately needed to protect elephants and conduct research beneficial to them. Zoos do not return elephants to the wild. Seeni’s calf, still in the womb, will never experience the incredible wealth of being a wild elephant. African elephants belong in Africa.

The Pittsburgh Zoo and its International Elephant Center are not conservation centers; they're concentrations of misguided and unkind acts of deprivation against elephants who will never be at home in Pennsylvania. This is embedded in captivity. Perhaps the Pittsburgh Zoo and its International Elephant Center can fit into its educational program the fact that they are called African elephants for a reason. 

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