IDA Writing Alert: Elephants suffer in zoos

October 30th, 2007 9:03 pm by Kelly Garbato

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: In Defense of Animals – takeaction [at] idausa.org
Date: Oct 30, 2007 10:46 AM
Subject: Writing Alert: Elephants suffer in zoos

The Birmingham News published an opinion piece about Birmingham Zoo’s plans for a new elephant exhibit. Please write a letter to the editor on the suffering elephants endure in zoos urging the zoo to scrap any such plans. Send letters to the Birmingham News at epage [at] bhamnews.com.

Read “Elephants suffer in zoos” online.

Elephants suffer in zoos

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Birmingham Zoo’s plan to create a new, $15 million exhibit to house six to eight male elephants ignores the elephant in the room: the fact that landlocked urban zoos cannot provide Earth’s largest land mammals with the space and natural conditions they need to thrive.

The zoo’s proposed 14-acre Trails of Africa exhibit may sound good on paper, but even if elephants were allowed to roam the entire acreage (an unlikely prospect given the inability of zoos to house male elephants together due to aggression issues and the space that will be taken up by indoor housing and visitor amenities), it would still be inadequate for six to eight pachyderms.

Elephants evolved to walk tens of miles daily. Their feet were meant to dig, climb, swim, run and even stand, but all on natural dirt, sand, grass, forest and savanna floor, which maintain foot and joint health.

Zoo conditions prevent elephants from exercising, forcing them to stand, virtually in one place, for decades on unyielding substrates like concrete and compacted earth. These conditions wreak havoc on elephants’ joints and feet. More than 60 percent of all elephants in zoos suffer from foot disease, and nearly half have arthritis. These painful conditions are the leading cause of suffering and premature death of elephants in zoos.

A national debate is raging as more people recognize the suffering that zoos inflict on elephants by failing to provide them with the space and conditions they need. More than a dozen U.S. zoos – including those in major cities such as New York, Detroit, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Chicago – have reacted by closing their elephant exhibits and/or announcing they will phase them out. But others, fearful of losing elephants and revenue, are embarking on expensive expansion projects that will add only a token few acres to existing elephant enclosures.

Given the evolving standards for keeping elephants in captivity, the millions being spent by the Los Angeles Zoo, National Zoo in Washington, D.C., Birmingham Zoo and others to build new elephant exhibits are being squandered on facilities that will be outdated by the time they open their doors.

Zoos claim all this is necessary for conservation, but it is more than 50 times as expensive to maintain elephants in a zoo than to protect equivalent numbers in the wild. Indeed, the more than $200 million earmarked for inadequate elephant exhibit renovations at U.S. zoos could save entire populations of elephants in their native lands.

Over the past decades, numerous zoos have transferred elephants to the two U.S. elephant sanctuaries. It is these facilities that have set the bar for caring for elephants. The Performing Animal Welfare Society in Northern California and the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee provide hundreds of acres of natural habitat with grass, trees, mud, ponds and dirt for dusting, coupled with high-quality care. In fact, elephants’ joint and feet problems have improved and even healed once the elephants can move freely over great distances on natural surfaces.

As the public becomes more aware of the pain and suffering elephants endure in order for visitors to conveniently see them in zoos, people are demanding the drastic changes necessary for providing maximum health and a high quality of life for elephants. If zoos can’t give elephants what they need, zoos should stop keeping elephants altogether.

For the Birmingham Zoo, that means forgoing an elephant exhibit and spending money instead to improve zoo exhibits for existing animals as well as on true conservation programs that save elephants where elephants live.

Elliot M. Katz, DVM is the president and founder of In Defense of Animals, an international animal protection nonprofit based in Northern California. E-mail: zoos@idausa.org.

2007 The Birmingham News
2007 al.com All Rights Reserved.

You can use the following points to help you in your letter or visit http://www.helpelephantsinzoos.org for more information.

* Elephants are highly complex, social animals who live in extended family groups and travel over thirty miles a day. Today’s zoos are unable to meet the physical and social needs of elephants. These needs include space, adequate exercise, and extended social groups.

* Elephants in zoos suffer from captivity-induced physical and psychological health problems due to lack of space. Health problems include debilitating foot and joint problems, arthritis, digestive disorders, stereotypic behaviors (neurotic behaviors resulting from severe confinement). Other problems include reproductive system shutdown (flatliners), and high infant mortality rate.

* The AZA, a zoo industry trade organization, provides a set of standards that are insufficient for the proper maintenance of elephants. These standards include a minimum outdoor enclosure size of 1,800 square feet for one elephant, the equivalent of six parking lot spaces. The standards also allow the prolonged chaining of elephants.

* As the largest land mammal, elephants are genetically designed to move and forage most of the day; this constant movement is necessary for their psychological and physical well-being.

* Historically elephants have been managed through coercive force, such as chaining for prolonged periods and use of bullhooks and electrical hotshots; this abuse is unacceptable.

* Zoos routinely move elephants, and other animals, from one zoo to another with little to no consideration for their social bonds. In the wild female elephants never leave their mothers and male elephants have complex social structures with other bulls and females. No elephant in the wild lives in constant solitary confinement.

Letters should be less than 200 words. Please do not send attachments and please remember to include your full name, address, and phone number (for verification purposes–street names and phone numbers will not be published) and not to use any wording in this alert.

Sincerely,
Kristie Phelps
Communications Director

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for IDA’s Action Center.

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with more than 85,000 members and supporters dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals by protecting their rights and welfare. IDA’s efforts include educational events, cruelty investigations, boycotts, grassroots activism, and hands-on rescue through our sanctuaries in Mississippi and Cameroon, Africa.

In Defense of Animals 3010 Kerner Blvd., San Rafael, California 94901 – P: (415) 388-9641 F: (415) 388-0388

email: idainfo [at] idausa.org

———————————

Tagged:

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under , , , , ,

Leave a Reply