Monterey Zoo Shamed in Worst Zoo for Elephants List

Monterey Zoo Shamed in Worst Zoo for Elephants List



Contact: Toni Frohoff, Ph.D.,, (805) 836-0496

Monterey Zoo Shamed in Worst Zoo for Elephants List


Salinas, CA (Jan 12, 2016) – International animal protection organization, In Defense of Animals, today released its annual list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America, with Monterey Zoo in Salinas, California, scooping the shameful dishonor of being the #8 Worst Zoo for Elephants in North America. Monterey Zoo is cited for being a shameful sham, claiming to offer “sanctuary” when instead, elephants are shamelessly exploited there.

Now in its twelfth year, In Defense of Animals’ respected list exposes the cruelty behind keeping the Earth’s largest land mammal captive in small, inadequate zoo exhibits that cause a lifetime of misery and lead to premature death.

“Monterey Zoo is a vile, barren roadside zoo run by an exotic animal trainer – it couldn’t be further from a sanctuary if it tried” said In Defense of Animals President, Dr. Marilyn Kroplick. “We call on Monterey Zoo to release these elephants from their desperate lives to a sanctuary that will act as a true place of refuge where these incredible animals will not be exploited any longer.”

Toni Frohoff, Ph.D., Elephant Scientist for In Defense of Animals said, “Evidence shows that elephants are not thriving or self-sustaining in zoos. Urgent action must be taken to stop greedy corporations from plundering elephants from the wild so they can restock elephants dying out in zoo displays faster than they can reproduce. If you want to help protect elephants, don’t visit zoos and instead help support real conservation efforts that keep animals in the wild where they belong.”

This marks the first appearance on our list for the Monterey Zoo – essentially a roadside zoo in Salinas, California, created by exotic animal trainer Charlie Sammut. Five African elephants are kept on a dusty and barren plot of land. Not only are they on display to be gawked at by the public (who can feed them for an extra $5), but they are forced to be used as “props” at fundraising parties; give rides to, and be touched by, the public; and required to perform demeaning circus-style tricks (even spinning roulette wheels). They are even used to deliver breakfast to paying guests at Sammut’s commercial bed and breakfast operation on the property. In addition, Sammut offers costly “animal training” sessions with the elephants that involve unnecessary and risky contact with the public.

Clearly the message about wild animals that Monterey Zoo’s elephant exhibit is imparting is not only warped – it is shameful. While Sammut keeps the elephants under his Elephants of Africa Rescue Society’s (EARS) non-profit, it is hard to tell where the nonprofit business stops and the for-profit starts. The zoo claims it is “evolving,” but there is more to evolution than creating bigger exhibits. True evolution starts with a change in mind and heart that puts the welfare of the animals ahead of profits and performances.

1 Dallas Zoo, Tex., Henry Doorly Zoo, Neb., and Sedgwick County Zoo, Kan.
2 Natural Bridge Zoo, Vir.
3 Oklahoma City Zoo, Okla.
4 Wildlife Safari, Ore.
5 Buttonwood Park Zoo, Mass.
6 San Antonio Zoo, Tex.
7 Oregon Zoo, Ore.
8 Monterey Zoo, Calif.
9 Buffalo Zoo, N.Y.
10 Southwick’s Zoo, Mass.

Bronx Zoo, NY

Edmonton Zoo, Alberta, Canada

For more information, please visit


Images of the elephants:

Closed or closing elephant exhibits:

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In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization located in San Rafael, Calif. dedicated to protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitats through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in India, Africa, and rural Mississippi.

IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS • 3010 KERNER BLVD. • SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901 • 415-448-0048