Worst Zoos for Elephants - Hall of Shame
List for repeat offenders that have made little or no progress improving conditions
Topeka Zoo (Kansas) - Topeka Zoo joins the notorious Hall of Fame for its refusal
to address the plights of Tembo and Sunda. The elephants endure shamefully inadequate conditions, which includes a lack of
space. Years of cramped confinement and long winter months indoors have led to health problems in both elephants, especially
Sunda, who suffers from chronic foot disease, which can quickly turn deadly. Last July, IDA urged the USDA to remove Sunda
from the zoo after observing gaping holes in the nails on two of her feet. In addition to health problems, both elephants
neurotically sway and rock, a sign of psychological distress. The stress of living in a small space has also led to aggression
between the elephants, who are different species. In September, a television report documented Sunda (Asian) ramming Tembo
(African). Instead of prolonging the elephants' misery, the zoo should send them to a spacious, natural-habitat sanctuary
with the company of elephants of their own species. The Topeka Zoo has made four appearances on IDA's list of the Ten Worst
Zoos for Elephants.
San Antonio Zoo (Texas) - This zoo remains intransigent in its selfish desire
to keep elephants, Lucky and Boo, on display. Given all that we know about elephants and their great physical, social and
psychological needs, it should be ashamed to keep these two elephants in such a tiny, outdated exhibit. Making problems worse
is that they don't get along, creating a stressful, unhealthy and dangerous situation. In 2010, the San Antonio Zoo was named
one of the worst zoos in the world because of its treatment of elephants, and there is nothing to indicate that anything
will soon change for Lucky and Boo.
Dickerson Park Zoo (Missouri) - This zoo has a terrible record with elephants.
Of 10 elephants born at the zoo, only two are alive today. Five calves were stricken with the highly fatal elephant herpesvirus,
with all but one dying from the deadly infection. Despite being a herpesvirus "hotspot," the zoo continued its breeding program
for years, often transporting female elephants to and from other zoos and circuses. Only after the death of 16-month-old Nisha
in December 2007 did the Dickerson Park Zoo put a temporary hold on elephant breeding. Meanwhile the four adult female Asian
elephants at this zoo languish in a cramped one-acre exhibit and concrete-floored barn. Dickerson earns additional Hall of
Shame stripes for its 2001 beating of the elephant named Chai, who lost 1000 pounds, and a history of painful foot problems,
psychological problems, aggression and premature deaths that have plagued its elephants over the years.
The Dickerson Park Zoo is a known "hot spot" for the deadly elephant herpes
virus; now you can add tuberculosis to the diseases found there. In January 2010, 60-year-old "Ol' CC" was prescribed nine
months of quarantined treatment for the disease, which is found in elephants in zoos and circuses. In July Ol' CC fell and
injured her back, possibly due to the anti-tuberculocidal medications. She died three weeks later, in August.
El Paso Zoo (Texas) - This zoo admitted that its three-quarter acre elephant
exhibit was too small, yet the next year a new zoo director convinced the City of El Paso that the very same exhibit was acceptable
for its two elephants, Juno and Savannah. The exhibit may comply with the AZA’s pitifully minimal standards that allow
elephants to be kept in an outdoor space about the size of a three-car garage and an indoor pen measuring only 20 feet by
20 feet, but it’s far from adequate for the zoo’s two elephants, who regularly display intensely repetitive, abnormal
behaviors, such as swaying and rocking, a sign of serious psychological distress. This zoo also earns its place in the Hall
of Shame due to its despicable history of elephant beatings.
Juno and aging Savannah continue to endure a sad life in their small.
barren exhibit, when they should be enjoying life with former El Paso Zoo resident Sissy at the spacious, natural-habitat
St. Louis Zoo (Missouri) - Elephants continue to suffer at this zoo, which has
made repeated appearances on IDA's Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list. Asian elephant Clara was euthanized at age 54, after
suffering for years from crippling arthritis and chronic foot disease, the result of decades spent in the zoo's tiny exhibit.
Clara’s companion Pearl continues to languish at the zoo, becoming increasingly debilitated. In 2007, Jade was born,
but rejected by her mother, Rani. Another elephant, Sri, has survived despite her failure to expel a fetus that died in utero
in November 2005. In 2008, young Jade was struck by the deadly elephant herpesvirus but managed to survive, though she suffered
a relapse in December 2009. Half-sister Maliha has tested positive for the disease but did not show clinical signs. No significant
change is on the horizon for St. Louis’s seven elephants who are crammed into a half-acre or less of outdoor space and
spend long stretches behind locked doors in concrete stalls at night and 24/7 during cold midwest winter days.
IDA filed a complaint with the USDA in 2010, citing the St. Louis Zoo’s
reckless breeding program that puts calves at risk of contracting the deadly elephant herpes virus. Ellie’s daughter,
Rani, is pregnant and expected to give birth in mid-summer 2011. In July 2010 Ellie suffered a miscarriage. Though the zoo
is expanding the exhibit, the elephants still will have to spend the majority of the icy, long winters crammed into small
indoor quarters, standing on unnaturally hard flooring that causes foot and joint disease and leads to premature death.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (California) - This amusement park has a hideous
history of elephant suffering and deaths, showing complete disregard for the health and well-being of the seven elephants
forced to live in the shadow of roller coaster rides, amidst noisy, rowdy crowds. Nine elephants have died at the park since
1995. Five of those elephants were euthanized as a direct result of the same foot and joint disorders that afflict at least
two elephants there currently, painful ailments caused by the cramped and barren exhibit. Six Flags forces elephants to perform
in shows and give rides through coercion and physical punishment with a bullhook, a steel-tipped device similar to a fireplace
poker used to poke, prod and beat elephants into compliance. Six Flags needs to acknowledge that forcing elephants to live
in highly unnatural conditions that cause them to suffer and die prematurely is not entertaining or fun.
Most of the elephants continue to live in this abysmal amusement park,
forced to give rides and do circus tricks for the public. Two elephants were moved out: Malaika was sent to a privately owned
facility owned by an exotic animal trainer in California, where she is still subject to circus-style management with the bullhook.
Joyce was sent to the Brookfield Zoo in 2009 to be a companion for Christy, whose pen-mate Affie had died at only age 40.
Four months later Christy died, leaving Joyce alone. In September 2010 she was moved to Six Flags Wild Safari in New Jersey,
the sixth home she's known since being taken from her native Zimbabwe. In January 2011, Taj died at age 71. Though she lived
longer than other elephants in zoos, she certainly did not enjoy a high quality of life.
Los Angeles Zoo (California) -
The Los Angeles Zoo has been REMOVED from the Hall of Shame because of
the zoo has made changes, including an increase in space and a switch in elephant training and management. The zoo is now
managing the elephants using the protected contact method, which is more humane for the elephants and safer for keepers. This
system uses only positive reinforcement and eschews use of the bullhook. The $42 million exhibit renovation provides 3.5 acres
for the elephants, an improvement from the previous quarter acre enclosure for elephant Billy, but still not enough space
for elephants. Unfortunately, the enclosure is subdivided into five yards, presenting a maze of gates and fences that bears
no resemblance to the promotional illustrations depicting plenty of open space. This is an exhibit built for the control and
management of elephants, rather than better meeting their needs. The zoo borrowed elephants Tina and Jewel from the San Diego
Zoo, barely avoided opening the exhibit with just one elephant, Billy.
Woodland Park Zoo (Washington) - A deadly elephant breeding program, intense
confinement and a host of captivity-induced ailments put this zoo – where the elephants are confined in an outdated
barn for 17 hours a day, 7 days a week, 7 months a year due to the cold, wet Seattle weather – in IDA’s Hall of
Shame. Chai, Bamboo and Watoto are held in roughly an acre of space divided into smaller yards (Watoto, an African elephant,
and Bamboo, an Asian, don’t get along and must be kept separate), where they suffer foot disease and arthritis, abnormal
behaviors such as repetitive swaying and rocking, and breeding disorders including early infertility. A lethal elephant herpes
virus that mainly strikes captive elephants killed six-year-old Hansa in 2007 and remains a serious threat to any elephant
born at the zoo in the future, yet it continues to subject Chai to repeated invasive artificial insemination procedures.