Wednesday, June 30


The elephants being freed from the Detroit Zoo and San Francisco Zoo are getting farewell coverage in their respective towns, and some forceful truths are sneaking out around the cracks. "For its two elephants, the Detroit Zoo doubled the size of their enclosure in 1998 to just over an acre and, in the past two years, had been looking to expand it even further. But the staff came to realize that their expansion would never be enough." For Kagan, even his decision to transfer his elephants came too late. "The problem is that we should have come to this conclusion sooner," he said. In his view, elephants simply don't adapt well to captivity. "While people want to see elephants, I think people don't want to see animals that suffer," he says.

Meanwhile, Lulu and Tinkerbelle from the San Francisco Zoo are moving to a sanctuary in Calaveras County. The director praised the sanctuary's proximity. It's 132 miles from the zoo, a 2 1/2-hour drive. "The lame-duck elephants will have a better trip, and zoo employees can visit more often." It's just like a happy ending to one of those Little Golden Books where a kid somehow acquires a wild animal, but isn't prepared to be able to care for it or house it properly, so it goes to a zoo where the kid will be able to what? "visit it any time." But is it the end? The AZA wanted the elephants sent to another zoo, but San Fran Zoo (with the backing of its Board of Supervisors) bucked the Association's wishes and announced they'd be going to a sanctuary, risking the loss of the zoo's accreditation from the AZA. "That risk hadn't receded Wednesday. 'The decision raises serious ethical and accreditation concerns,' said association executive director Sydney Butler." Ethical concerns. Yeah, that's exactly what it raises, Sydney. Had no idea you were actually paying attention.

Not paying quite enough attention was Carson & Barnes Circus, which trumpeted the arrival in Mendocino County of "Jennie, the baby elephant who performs in the center." Jennie "is very special as she is the first live birth from the breeding program."

That's great. Except that Jennie died in April. I know, I know, how's a busy circus supposed to keep track of which "co-worker" is alive or dead? Let's not bicker and argue over who killed who, after all.

At least some places are paying attention. A town outside of Boston has shut down its annual 4th of July circus, citing "years of low-key animal-rights protests as one of several factors in their decision to forgo the annual event." Interestingly, the story goes on include this tidbit: "The Cole Brothers Circus has stopped using elephants in most of its shows, said spokeswoman Renee Storey, who said the animals were aging and would not be replenished with younger ones." First I've heard of that, thought I don't get over to as often as I'd like. Anyway, it'll be fun to hear Ringling's inspired spin when they're the last corporate institution in America to continue exploiting elephants.

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