Saturday, November 19


The current controversy at the Philadelphia Zoo over possibly ending their elephant exhibit may be a tipping point for the national debate on elephants and zoos. What I mean is that when one zoo courageously closes its elephant house out of concern for the animals, that's an anomaly. When a couple zoos do so, it's just mildly interesting. We're now at "mild trend" level with a handful of zoos wrestling with the elephant question, and if one of the nation's most venerable and high-profile zoos throws in with the rest, it could soon get to the point where the story now becomes the diminishing number of zoos that are still stubbornly hanging onto this anachronism of cruelty.

I really can't see this going any direction other than forward, with the only question being whether it will continue to gather momentum or whether there will be fits and starts over the next couple years. But let's face it, the case is incontrovertible. There's no true advantage to elephants in becoming slaves to human entertainment, and talk of "conservation" is an obvious smokescreen: As soon as the issue of "conserving" the elephants out of public view arises, it's clear that profit is the real concern. Note in this story on the Philly situation ("Philadelphia Zoo May End Elephant Exhibit Because of Shortfall"):

    Some zoo officials are resolved to keep their elephants. The Birmingham Zoo in Alabama, which has had Mona for more than 50 years, plans a $15 million expansion that will add waterfalls and tree canopies on 20 acres for more elephants. "Hiding them in a sanctuary doesn't do it,'' said William Foster, the zoo's chief executive. "They need to be seen.''
"Need"? In what way do the elephants "need" to be seen? How does being seen benefit them? Do you perhaps mean, "they need to be monetized"?

Similarly, in yet another example of the National Zoo cluelessness as to its animals' health issues, there's an elephant there now, Toni, who is receiving treatment for arthritis in her legs. "The zoo said in September that if the condition worsens, she might have to be euthanized -- a possibility that has prompted two animal rights groups to push to have Toni moved to an elephant sanctuary, where she would have more room to exercise and be on softer ground." Well, OK, sounds good, except a zoo official "said a sanctuary is not the answer for Toni, who needs constant medical care. He does not want to separate her from the only elephants she has known." Well, yeah, except "euthanizing" her is just about by definition separating her from them, as well as from other things. Besides, it's a false dilemma - why separate them? Send all the freakin' elephants to the same sanctuary. Problem solved!

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