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Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Thoughts To Ponder by Phillip Hathaway, MLA

1. Zoos claim to carefully protect the lives of its animals. 2. Zoos claim their value is largely based upon their educational contribution. 3. Zoos claim to keep elephants in good health and never mistreat them. 4. Zoos claim to be actively involved in wildlife conservation. 5. Zoos operate as though elephants —and other animals —are a commodity, thus conveying this misconception to the general public, the majority of whom accept the message unconsciously. 6. Zoos claim elephants can live in sub-zero temperatures while remaining completely healthy in a heated barn. 7. Zoos claim animals receive all the exercise they need in a zoo. 8. Zoos claim to be tightly regulated and accountable for their actions. 9. Zoos claim animals can be justifiably taken from, or kept from, their natural environment for human amusement and imprisoned for life. 10. Zoos, and city council members who oversea them, claim to make the best decisions for animals.

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder I shall never forget that dull, wintry day when I last visited a zoo. Because of the frigid conditions, the zoo attracted few visitors and so I could see the animals without the crowds. Soon I was standing before a twostory glass window. On the other side of the window was a male, Asian elephant. His legs were chained. Except for the ability to sway repeatedly from side to side in a heartbreaking display of neurosis, he was utterly immobile. I instinctively knew his captivity was a crime against nature. It was painfully reminiscent of the beautiful parrot who screeched wildly behind bars as he pulled out his marvelously flamboyant feathers leaving raw skin —of the cannibalism among caged rodents. Yet, there were many more wrongful things occurring at that zoo and others like it. We shall

consider the ice cold facts which appear to indicate that these wrongs are common, rather than exceptional, among zoos. Background to our inquiry, we might pose such questions as: What is the prevailing motivation behind this industrialized, lucrative commerce that produces $16 billion each year? Is it monetary or animal welfare? Also, please note that elephants in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) will often be our example, for their treatment is representational of zoo’s overarching regard for animals in their care.

ABOVE: Elephants are chained with barely the ability to move, in some cases, for 17 hours a day.



Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder animals. These surplus animals are either killed —and sometimes fed to their fellow zoo habitants —or sold to other zoos or dealers.

ABOVE: In 2005 two wolf cubs and an adult female were shot dead at Dartmoor Wildlife Park in England because they were surplus.

Zoos claim to carefully protect the lives of its animals. Fact: Zoos kill “surplus” animals —even the babies —without the slightest regard to mercy. “Surplus animals are the unwanted animals for whom there is no more space, when zoos have bred yet another cute little baby to attract visitors. They can even be the cute babies themselves when they've stopped being cute at the end of the season. This is because, “zoos have a systematic ‘overproduction’ of

“Selling animals is a profitable way for zoos to dispose of them. Dealers will sell them to hunting ranches, pet shops, circuses, the exotic meat industry, and research facilities. Surplus animals are also found for sale on the internet.” 1 A study conducted by the Captive Animal Protection Society (CAPS) found that “at least 7,500 animals —and possibly as many as 200,000 —in European zoos are ‘surplus’ at any one time.” These surplus “animals are regularly ‘culled’ in UK zoos. In 2006 the whole pack of wolves at Highland Wildlife Park were killed after the social structure of the pack had broken down.

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder In 2005 two wolf cubs and an adult female were shot dead at Dartmoor Wildlife Park.” The attending veterinarian reported, “Selective cull due to overcrowding and fighting in the pack” and “further cull of cubs needed.” 2 It seems that the zoo could have successfully separated take up space and keeper these wolves, releasing time.” them to a sanctuary or to the wild. Yet, they chose In 2010 a German zoo to kill them— even the “was prosecuted for cubs, which is positively inexcusable. breaching animal welfare laws after it killed three “In 2001 a DEFRA zoo tiger cubs because they inspection of Dartmoor were not pure-blooded Wildlife Park in October (hybrid).” Once again, 2001 found that ‘several such gross negligence significant dead animals’ and flagrant violation of were stored in a food animal welfare laws by freezer ‘for taxidermy in those who have been the future’. entrusted to safeguard and nurture animals “The European appears to be outright Association of Zoos and criminality. Aquaria (EAZA) said in In 2011, a former 2007 that member zoos employee of the were being actively Knowsley Safari Park in encouraged to kill the United Kingdom unwanted animals, alleged that, “culling was including tigers, if other being used as a means of zoos did not want them training instead of being and if they were hybrids. carried out in the kindest It said that such animals and most humane way.


ABOVE: In 2010 a German zoo “was prosecuted for breaching animal welfare laws after it killed three tiger cubs because they were not pure-blooded.”


Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder

ABOVE: Copenhagen Zoo killed a young and perfectly healthy male giraffe named Marius because he was surplus.

BELOW : After dissecting Marius’ body before a group of grade school children, the zoo fed his body to the lions.

such, many are killed or sold. Deer, lions, tigers and other animals who become old (no longer being as attractive as they were when they were younger or smaller) or become ill are often sold to hunters who pay for the privilege of killing them in their private hunting enclosures. Other animals which are in ‘surplus’ are also sold to circuses or less reputable zoos.” 3 “Copenhagen Zoo, which gained notoriety last month for killing a young [and perfectly healthy] giraffe named Marius and feeding his corpse to the lions, has hit the headlines again, as a healthy family of lions has now joined its growing death tally. “Two adult lions and two cubs have been killed so that a new male can be introduced into the captive group to ‘make room for a new generation.’ In remarks reminiscent of those made to justify the death

of Marius, the zoo's director Steffen Stræde claimed the lions had to be put down ‘partly to avoid inbreeding between the two young lions and their father.’ In any case, it was stated, the young cubs would likely have been killed by the new male.” 4 This common practice of killing healthy animals when they fail to attract visitors, or when they become inconvenient, seems to demonstrate that the quest of zoos is money, rather animal welfare. For rather than the slightest considerations of mercy, these zoos chose the cheapest alternative —killing. Is there justifiable concern that such callous ambivalence may be the norm of many zoo officials?

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder Zoos claim their value is largely based upon education. Fact: Apparently, the attitude of many zoo-goers is predominated by bemused, passive indifference rather than a quest for learning. “We found that on average, people at the Toronto Zoo were looking at the elephants for 77 seconds.” 5 Edward G. Ludwig’s study seems to collaborate this finding. “Ludwig’s study indicated that most animals are viewed only briefly as people move quickly past cages. The typical zoo-goer stops only to watch baby animals or those who are begging, feeding or making sounds. Ludwig reported that the most common expressions used to describe animals are ‘cute’, ‘funnylooking’, ‘lazy’, ‘dirty’, ‘weird’ and ‘strange’.” 6 What is more, many

young people know more about dinosaurs than animals imprisoned at the zoo yet they have never seen a dinosaur except in an artist’s rendition of them. Therefore, it is unnecessary to see animals imprisoned at a zoo to learn about them. And, zoos always miseducate with these messages —and many others — which are expressed by their actions and accepted unconsciously by the public, including the following falsehoods: It is appropriate to, (a) separate animals from their close knit families, (b) ship them on extremely long journey’s under adverse conditions, (c) imprisoned them for life, (d) force elephants to live on concrete floors, which ruins their feet and, in turn, ruins their overall health (e) disallow exercise necessary for their basic health, (f) force breed


ABOVE: Ludwig’s study found that the most common expressions used to describe animals by zoo-goers are ‘cute’, ‘funnylooking’, ‘lazy’, ‘dirty’, ‘weird’ and ‘strange’.

them, (g) trade them to other zoos and, (h) by doing all these things, dramatically shorten their lives.


Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder

ABOVE: This elephant’s legs and feet have been ruined because she was forced to live on a concrete floor. Elephants cannot lay down but for only a few moments so she is kneeling to relive the unbearable pain.

Zoos claim to keep elephants in good health and never mistreat them. Fact: Perhaps, the most dangerous place for an elephant is a zoo. “The lives of elephants in zoos typically are far shorter than their 70-year life expectancy. More than half of the 76 elephants who have died at AZA accredited facilities since 2000 never even reached the age of 40.” 7 “Of the 321 elephant deaths for which The Seattle Times had complete records, half were by age 23, more than a quarter of a century before their expected life spans of 50 to 60 years.” 8

“Captivity makes elephants seem older than they actually are,” said Catherine Doyle of Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS). Regarding a 46 year old elephant named Joy, Catherine commented that, “In the wild . . . Joy would have been having babies at her age. 9 Because of crowded conditions, poor sanitation and poor ventilation, elephants imprisoned at zoos are exposed to a high probability of a virus known as endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV). “Current treatments suppress EEHV and elephants can potentially recover if treatment starts early. Of the elephants that have been treated, the success rate with anti-viral therapy against EEHV has been about 40 percent.” 10 Yet this represents a 60 percent death rate; and, we assume this 40 percent success rate is

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder based upon early detection, which is not always the case, so the average death rate could be higher. In all fairness, we know that elephants carry this virus in the wild, as well. Yet, in the wild, elephants are able to maintain a strong immune system, which successfully fights the virus, keeping it in check. Maintaining a strong immune system in zoos is highly improbable, for this requires walking ten to fifteen miles each day over thousands of acres with their families in freedom, an utter impossibility in zoos. Consequently, their immune systems are never appropriately strong and thus prone to EEHV outbreaks and other contagious diseases such as tuberculosis. They are also subject to arthritis and ruined feet from concrete floors. The resulting immobility can cause death; for, as we

have previously noted, under normal conditions, they walk several miles each day to properly exercise their circulatory, respiratory and lymphoid systems. In the wild, they only stand stationary for approximately four out of every twenty-four hours while asleep. Laying down for any length of time is rarely an option for doing so may cause their internal organ to be twisted or crushed by their enormous weight. This is why walking on grassy areas, rather than concrete, is essential for the health of their feet and legs. For, as we have noted, should their feet and legs be damaged from concrete or become arthritic or atrophied from insufficient exercise, elephants often die. 11 “Publicly, the zoo industry was claiming — and continues to claim today — that "elephants are thriving inside zoos." It's a message that AZA officials have delivered

ABOVE: This is Can, the elephant, a female forest elephant who has been in solitary confinement at the Abidjan Zoo for over ten years after her mother and sister starved to death.



Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder repeatedly to lawmakers and regulators, trumpeted in news releases, and highlighted in a recent national marketing campaign.

ABOVE: As though she were an unfeeling commodity, Chai was corralled and forced to endure 112 degrading artificial-inseminations.

“But they know it's not true. And it never has been. “Rather, the decades-long effort by zoos to preserve and protect elephants is failing, exacerbated by substandard conditions and denial of mounting scientific evidence that most elephants do not thrive in captivity, The Seattle Times has found.” 12 Another unnatural practice of zoos is forced breeding. According to nature, female elephants breed when males, “produce musth fluid signaling females that they are ready to mate,” 13 not when zoo keepers decide to impregnate them artificially. Yet, zoo keepers assume a rather callous approach to their captives. “At Woodland Park, some

zookeepers wanted to stop trying to get Chai pregnant. But others disagreed; Chai was the only fertile elephant left at the zoo. In March 2010, zoo records show, Chai was inseminated for the 104th time. “Last December [2011], Woodland Park zookeepers corralled Chai once more into the restraint chute and over the course of four days performed three artificial-insemination procedures, bringing the total to 112 attempts, zoo records show. None of the three was successful.” 14 Mating is profoundly central to the self-esteem of a cow, as is maternity to the entire herd; the 22 month gestation period and the day of birth are attended and celebrated by the entire family. “During the birth of a calf the members of the herd will gather around to help the mother. Baby

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder elephants are raised and nurtured by the whole family group, practically from the moment they are born.” 15 Such patriarchal and matriarchal support and nurturing is thoroughly impossible at a zoo yet Chai was, nonetheless, subjected to these degrading, plasticine procedures which, to her, were frightfully otherworldly and tantamount to violent rape. Tragically, this is the norm for elephants imprisoned for life in zoos. After enduring so much misery, Chai was shipped to the infamous Oklahoma City Zoo where she died alone in freezing temperatures. Elephant Scientist, Toni Frohoff, Ph.D. said, "There is a strong basis for concern that Chai was left outside in the cold overnight and was not afforded reasonable protection, as is required under the Animal Welfare Act. This needs

to be explored as the cause of, or a contributing factor, to her early and suspicious death. Repeated statements from the Zoo in the media and even on their website and media release claim that Chai was 'found in the elephant yard at approximately 7:30 am'. Given the recorded temperatures of that night falling into the 30’s and the lack of evidence that she was monitored appropriately, this would be a heinous violation of both Subpart F 3.127(b) of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), regarding appropriate shelter from inclement weather and Association of Zoos and Aquarium guidelines that, 'Elephants exposed to temperatures below 40°F for longer than 60 minutes, must be monitored hourly to assess the potential for hypothermia.'" 16 It is worth mentioning again that zoos may be


ABOVE: Chai died alone in freezing temperatures at the infamous Oklahoma City Zoo, considered to be the third worst zoo for elephants in the United States.

the most dangerous place for elephants. “Captivityrelated debilities and disease and behavioral abnormalities are prevalent in elephants in zoos, including foot and joint disorders (the major causes of death in captivity), repetitive swaying and rocking, reproductive disorders, tuberculosis, infertility, and infanticide.” 17


Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder Are zoos actively involved in wildlife conservation?

ABOVE: Zoos claim to help elephants in the wild, like this bull African elephant. But one wildlife conservationists said, “I think it’s laughable that they would call them-selves elephant conservationists.”

Fact: “Zoo director David Hancocks said, ‘There is a commonly held misconception that zoos are not only saving wild animals from extinction but also reintroducing them to their wild habitats. The confusion stems from many sources, all of them zoo-based. In reality, most zoos have had no contact of any kind with any reintroduction program.’” 18 Rob Laidlaw, Executive Director of Zoo Check, “says zoos aren’t doing much [about conservation of elephants in the wild]. He continued by saying, “‘When you add up the amounts they’re spending on keeping elephants in captivity and compare that to the actual contribution they’re making to elephants in the wild, I think it’s laughable that they would

call themselves elephant conservationists.’ Laidlaw said that the National Zoo in Washington D.C. has a “new elephant facility, which is very small, [and] cost about $50 million.” 19 When envisioning all that $50 million could provide to protect wildlife against poachers —a fleet of helicopters, a fleet of land rovers, salaries for rangers, armament, ammunition, uniforms, boots, backpacks, tents, mess kits, military training, fencing, tag tracking equipment and much, much more —it is a pitiful shame that this money was spent to sentence elephants to a hellish life in prison. This is yet a double shame when we recognize that over one thousand rangers have died protecting African elephants since March of 2015 20 and most of these deaths occurred because

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder the rangers were fighting with inferior weaponry, ill-equipped against poachers armed and supported with sophisticated materiel. Furthermore, we see that, “the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which represents 222 institutions, mostly in the United States and Canada, says its members spend $160 million on conservation each year – which sounds impressive until you see that zoos and aquariums contribute $16 billion annually to the U.S. economy. In any case, ‘conservation’ often focuses on animals in zoos, not endangered species in the wild. Last year, the Toronto Zoo, Canada’s largest, spent a mere $136,000 on endangered species, one-fifth of 1 per cent of its $53.5-million budget.” 21 Lastly, it is noteworthy that, “70% of elephants in European zoos were taken from the wild,” 22

which is, of itself, directly counterproductive to wildlife conversation. For, compared to zoos, living in the wild provides higher longevity, much higher birth rates and significantly lower infant-mortality for elephants. “The infant-mortality rate for elephants in zoos is almost triple the rate in the wild . . . a staggering 40 percent. For every elephant born in a zoo, on average another two die. At that rate, the 288 elephants inside 78 U.S. zoos could be ‘demographically extinct’ within the next 50 years because there'll be too few fertile females left to breed, according to zoo-industry research.” 23 This, of course, necessitates kidnaping more elephants from the wild, who are usually calves, which often accompanies killing the matriarchs and patriarchs of the herd. So, not only are the calves


ABOVE: Rangers who guard wildlife ranges fight well armed poachers, some of whom have heavy machines guns, grenades and helicopters. The fortune spent on zoos could be used, instead, to adequately arm our rangers.

incarcerated for life and their parents killed, but the essential hierarchy of the wild herd is dismantled, leaving survivors of the herd in life threatening disarray, as well.


Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder

ABOVE: Elephants belong to extremely close knit families, led by the elder male and female, with each individual member functioning together as one living organism. Should a member be separated from the family, death sometimes results from a broken heart.

Do zoos operate as though elephants, and other animals, are a commodity? Fact: Unlike dogs or cats who lose a sense of family bonds shortly after weaning, elephants are extraordinarily close to their families throughout their lives, forming a pronounced cathexis, or intense emotional bond, the profundity of which apparently exceeds human capacity for closeness. Thus, separating them from their families creates severe intellective damage.

For instance, female elephants never leave their mother’s side for their entire lives; thus, grandmothers, mothers, daughters and granddaughters remain inseparable as the matriarchs teach the younger members of the family to forage for food, seek drinking water and avoid danger. While zoos in the United States and Canada require females to be accompanied by other females, zoos, nonetheless, largely ignore matriarchal bonds. Males are more independent yet also bear teaching responsibilities and will protect their families, valiantly fighting to the death for them. To be sure, elephants have distinct family hierarchies in which the elders are venerated. They also mourn their departed family members and show their grief with gatherings similar to our funerals, during which

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder times some of them weep. In some reports elephants “were observed shedding abundant tears in stressful or painful situations. Darwin, too, wrote that the keepers of Indian elephants at the London Zoo reported that the animals would sometimes weep from sorrow.” 24 Indeed, elephant families exhibit many of the identical emotional nuances and subtleties of the human family dynamic, yet (it bears repeating) appear to have an even greater potential for deeper and lasting intimacy among its members. Irreversible psychological damage always results from their separation. Yet, zoos always separate families. This is why some elephants lose the will to live, dying from a broken heart when separated or kidnaped from their families by zoos. In addition to mourning the loss of a family

member because of forced separation or kidnaping by zoos, elephants suffer unspeakably from the unbroken monotony and austere conditions of a thoroughly alien zoo environment, succumbing to a condition known as zoochosis. When considering their superior intellect, it is easy to understand their susceptibility to this mental trauma; for, elephants are unable to psychologically engage with the horror of their imprisonment that is almost void of life, frightfully utilitarian and— physically, psychically— overbearingly inhibiting. Zoochosis is commonly manifested by neurotic behavior, especially


ABOVE: Darwin reported that elephants at the London Zoo would weep from sorrow, like this baby who lost her mother.


Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder continuos swaying and nodding of their heads, a malady exhibited by almost all captive elephants.

ABOVE: A member of the International Fund for Animal Welfare tranquilizes an elephant in a 2014 rescue attempt. Two of the six elephants died from the effects of tranquilization.

Zoos also claim that elephants can be subject to dangerous tranquilizer shots without the risk of severe consequences to their health. However, tranquilizers pose a threat to elephants since their reaction can be lethal and unpredictable. After the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) administered tranquilizers to six elephants they were rescuing in the Ivory Coast, one died of a heart attack; another ran into a pond for safety but when the tranquilizer took effect he collapsed into the water and drowned. 25 “If the vet has to knock out the animal with drugs every time he needs to treat some affliction, the risk of death becomes considerable. Accidental overdoses and allergic reactions are always

threats, but the main problem arises since elephants breathe differently than most mammals do. Instead of a diaphragm contracting and creating a vacuum in the pleural cavity to draw in air, their lungs depend upon the muscles that surround them to force air in and out. As a result, an elephant that falls unconscious onto its side is likely to develop serious breathing problems in a short time. If it collapses onto its knees with its head hanging down forward, the breathing passage becomes choked off and the animals will suffocate even more quickly.� 26 Zoos force elephants to endure journeys, which for a five to ten thousand pound animal, is arduous. Moreover, many of these journeys last thousands of miles in which they may spend many days in adverse weather that is far too hot or far too cold for their safety, wherein they

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder are sequestered in filthy conditions, all of which jeopardizes their health and sometimes causes their deaths. Joy a female African elephant died in June of 2014 at the age of 44 during such a journey from an apparent fall while in transit to a new zoo. The trailer in which she was being transported, “had no strap to hold her up in case she fell and no camera to allow constant surveillance by zoo employees following in a chase car. An animal rights group says that amounts to negligence and it may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which licenses the city-owned Greenville Zoo.” As though she were a commodity, Joy had been transported from her former home in Dallas, Texas to the Greenville Zoo in South Carolina. “She was 7 when she came to

Greenville in 1977, and she lived alone in that tiny world for two decades.” She was then temporarily sent to the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia South Carolina where she was attacked by another elephant, sustaining permanent leg injuries, and died en route to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. 27 One might feel that zoo officials trade elephants similar to boys trading baseball cards for this kind of bargaining with the lives of elephants between zoos is commonplace. Zoos claim elephants can live their entire lives on a concrete floor without jeopardizing their health. Yet, as we have learned, the principal cause of elephant deaths at AZA accredited zoos is ruined feet and arthritic legs from concrete floors and inhibited mobility. Nevertheless, the AZA irresponsibly approves elephant exhibits with


BELOW : As though she were a commodity, Joy was shipped from Dallas to the Greenville Zoo, to the Riverbanks Zoo and died under questionable conditions en route to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo


Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder

concrete floors, which are often a virtual death sentence to elephants since they cannot lay down to relieve the agonizing pressure on their feet without risk of collapse of their internal organs. And, as we have seen in our discussion, the life expectancy for elephants imprisoned in zoos is typically twenty to thirty years less than those in the wild, which also contributes to more separation and the associated grieving process. In conclusion of this section, it is paramount to understand that animals are not commodities but distinct personalities with an array of sensitive, human-like feelings, and so it is impossible to justify their incarceration for life simply to satisfy of few seconds of whimsical curiosity.

Zoos claim elephants can live in sub-zero temperatures. Fact: Elephants are at risk of hypothermia at 40â—ŚF or 4â—ŚC. Should they spend more than an hour in such conditions, they must be monitored by a qualified attendant for several hours. Furthermore, a heated barn is infinitely small for an elephant and tantamount to humans living without heat in the dead of winter, depending upon a bathroom heater as the only source of warmth. Such imposing restrictions upon their mobility further increases

ABOVE: These captive elephants are at grave danger of hypothermia and should never be kept under such conditions.

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder


the probability of a compromised immune system, subjecting them to EEHV and feet and legs impairment, the foremost cause of elephant deaths in AZA accredited zoos. “Reduction in space, decreased activity levels and loss of autonomy often lead to frustration, boredom, the development of abnormal behaviours and compromised elephant welfare. Confinement indoors can also be a significant factor in circulatory issues and obesity and cold temper-atures may exacerbate arthritis and other health issues. “Unfortunately, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) requirement for indoor space for a single elephant is a mere 400 ft² (37.2 m²). While some zoos exceed that standard, no zoos are able to provide sufficient indoor space to allow for natural elephant movements and behaviour.” 28

Zoos claim animals receive all the exercise they need in a zoo. Fact: Let’s consider the cheetah. Because a cheetah’s nasal passages, heart and lungs are significantly larger in ratio to its body, compared to other animals, it is able to rapidly enrich its blood with oxygen, allowing acceleration from a standing start to 47 mph in an astonishing two seconds. 29 While hunting, a cheetah averages 40 mph during pursuit, 30 interspersed with explosions of speed between 65 and 75 mph. One leaping stride of a

ABOVE: Accelerating from 0 to 47 mph in jaw-dropping 2 seconds, onward to a speed of 75 mph, the majestic cheetah is the Earth’s fastest land animal.


Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder

running cheetah on the hunt at full speed averages 22 ft. 31 All four legs are off the ground half the time during a dead run, in which the cheetah literally sails through space, contributing to this fantastic stride length. 32 Every part of its body— its feet, claws, shoulders, greyhound-like torso, even its tail, used as a rudder of sorts—is morphologically attuned to exquisite velocity. Its ability to keep its head almost stationary, riveting its eyes like lasers, while streaking t’ward its prey in a blur is otherworldly. Would any fairminded person restrict this fleetest of mammals to captivity for life? Likewise, polar bears are inhumanely restricted in zoos. One of the best exhibits for them in the United States comprises four acres including a

190,000 gallon saltwater pool. To humans, this may seem ample for three polar bears. 33 Yet, in their natural habitat, “Young polar bears may travel more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) to set up a home range apart from their mother's, although sub-adult dispersal remains a little-studied topic for polar bears because tagging and tracking a quickly growing animal is tricky. “Scientists believe that most bears limit travel to home ranges of a few hundred miles. But they know one

ABOVE: Polar bears trek over thousands of miles of wilderness in quest of the far-flung freedom instinctive to them.

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder satellite-tracked female trekked 3,000 miles (4,800 Km)—from Alaska's Prudhoe Bay to Greenland to Canada's Ellesmere Island and back to Greenland.” 34 So, we see this exhibit is miserably restrictive to polar bears, preventing the far-flung freedom instinctive to them. Even worse, elephants are often kept in dungeon-like conditions with barely enough room to move. For example, David Hancocks, who was Director of Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo for eight years said he discovered, “a dank and dimly lit two-room barn where zookeepers chained two female elephants — Bamboo, 14, and Watoto, 11 — for as long as 17 hours a day. Conditions were horrible, Hancocks recalled. I planned to close the exhibit.” But Hancocks left the elephants in this nightmarish condition when Thai Airways

International, who was promoting a new overseas route, gave Seattle a promotional gift: a baby Asian elephant as though she were a commodity who could bought, sold and used for profit.“‘What could I do?’ Hancocks said. ‘The mayor, the public, everyone wanted this elephant. I couldn't refuse.’” 35 Of course he could have refused and, to be certain, it was his duty to refuse and rescue these horribly abused elephants. Yet, he cravenly acquiesced to city hall, like most zookeepers. Along with the Thai Airway’s elephant, another elephant soon followed. Now there were “four elephants who shared an 8-by-8 -foot south room and a 20-by-42 north room. Conditions were so cramped that they were chained at night so they wouldn't accidentally roll over each other.”

ABOVE: Zoos often chain elephants and keep them in crowded and cramped quarters.



Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder

As of this writing, the San Diego Zoo, touted often to be the best zoo in the United States, keeps twelve elephants in only three acres. Yet, as we have learned, elephants must walk ten or fifteen miles each day, roaming over thousands of acres with their families in freedom for essential psychological well being and to properly exercise their enormous respiratory, circulatory and lymph node systems. Sometimes herds walk as far as thirty miles in a single day. However, while imprisoned in zoos, it is neither possible to be with their families nor walk these distances.

Zoos claim to be tightly regulated and accountable for their actions. Fact: “In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) licenses animal exhibitors and is supposed to enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). But permits are issued to nearly any-one who fills out an application and sends in a fee. “Generally, the AWA addresses basic husbandry issues. Animals must be fed, watered, and provided with shelter, yet cages can have cement floors and there’s no require-ment for grass, greenery, or other natural vegetation. Cage space regulations generally are interpreted to require only that the animals be provided with enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around, and move around a bit. “While local authorities do have the legal power to enforce state cruelty

laws for animals suffering in zoos, the vast majority simply refuse to take action, passing the buck to the USDA.” 36 “At a so-called ‘Animal Park’ in the affluent suburbs of Washington, D.C., an unwanted wallaby was drowned to death when the owner no longer wanted it. These types of unaccredited zoos are a large problem in the U.S. and they are easy to set up. A person can obtain an exhibitor license under the Animal Welfare Act, privately possess wild animals and establish a zoo.” 37 And, the AZA approves procedures such as the “free contact” elephant management system. “In free contact, the keeper must dominate the elephant at all times and uses negative reinforcement to achieve this. Handlers use the steel-pointed bullhook, a device resembling a fireplace poker, to prod,

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder

ABOVE: A zookeeper holds a threat in his hands, a bullhook that causes fear in elephants who have been stabbed and beaten by it.

BELOW: A closer look at a bullhook reveals its sharp claw and why elephants fear it.

hook and strike elephants and force compliance with commands. Even when not in use, the bullhook is a constant reminder of the physical punishment that can be delivered at any time, for any reason.� 38

Can animals be justifiably taken from their natural environments and imprisoned for life for human amusement? Fact: Animals are not here for our amusement. Of course, they may amuse us, yet this is merely a by-product of their lives and not their purpose. In the case of elephants,


their purpose is to live freely, roaming over thousands of acres with their families in the wild. As we have seen, animals are not unfeeling commodities. And, kidnaping them destroys families, causing debilitating mental and physical ramifications, tragedies unworthy of a few fleeting seconds of human amusement.


Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder

Zoos, and city council members who oversee them, claim to make the best decisions for animals. Fact: Zoos are part of an industry— a $16 billion industry in the U.S. alone. Are city council members who oversee zoos making decisions that benefit themselves without regard to the animals they hold in torturous captivity for life? Are they making decisions based solely upon money? Are city council members, in particular, empathic, sympathetic to the manifold suffering of the many caged animals they hold in sway? Should animal welfare be among the chief interests of zoos and city council members, it seems they would raise money for reforestation,

water conservation, ranger expenses, antipoaching and trafficking needs in their natural habitat rather than incarcerating them for life where they will be destined to disease, unbearable mental hardships and premature death. And, if educating the public to appreciate animals is central to zoos and city council members, it seems they would want to encourage natural freedom, rather than hellish, life-sapping confinement for these personalities who have committed no wrong, who are the most innocent souls among us.

ABOVE: City Council Members oversee zoos in most cities.

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder


1. “Zoos,” Vegan Peace, 2. Abigail Geer, “5 Reasons You Should Boycott the Zoo,”, Jan. 15, 2014. 3. “Zoos: A Life Without Freedom,” Animal Equality, 4. Liz Tyson, “No Half-Measures: While there are Zoos, the Killing Will Continue,” CNN,, Mar. 27, 2014. 5. Rachel Belle, “Do Zoos Actually Do Anything To Help At-Risk Elephants In the Wild? Experts Say No,”, Feb. 23, 2016. 6. Dale Jamieson, “Against Zoos”, In Defense of Animals, New York: Basil Blackwell, 1985, pp. 108-117. 7. “Elephant Deaths at Facilities Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)”, PETA, 8. Michael J. Berens, “Elephants Are Dying Out in America’s Zoos”, The Seattle Times, Dec. 4, 2012. 9. Mykal McEldowney, “What Killed Joy the Elephant?”, Greenville Online, July 14, 2014. 10. “Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus Research”, International Elephant Foundation, May, 2012, page 8. 11. “Elephant Deaths at Facilities Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)”, PETA, 12. Michael J. Berens, “Elephants Are Dying Out in America’s Zoos”, The Seattle Times, Dec. 4, 2012. 13. “Asian Elephants Living in the Wild”,, 2001. 14. Michael J. Berens, “Elephants Are Dying Out in America’s Zoos”, The Seattle Times, Dec. 4, 2012.


Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder

15. “Asian Elephants Living in the Wild”,, 2001. 16. “Justice for Chai - Dead at #3 Worst Zoo for Elephants”, In Defense of Animals, 17. Catherine Doyle, MS, David Hancocks, Keith Lindsay, PhD, Joyce Poole, PhD, Adam M. Roberts, “FAQ: Proposed Import of Wild Elephants from Swaziland by U.S. Zoos”, Conservation Action Trust. 18. Gareth Patterson, “Who Cares For Planet Earth: The Can In Conservation,” Penguin Books, South Africa, 2009. 19. Rachel Belle, “Do Zoos Actually Do Anything To Help At-Risk Elephants In The Wild? Experts Say No”,, Feb. 23, 2016. 20. Bryan Christy, “Ivory Worship”, National Geographic, Mar. 2015 21. Robert Everett-Green, “Why I’m Never Going To The Zoo Again”, The Globe and Mail, Jun. 1, 2016. 22. “10 Facts About Zoos,” Captive Animals Protection Society, Mar. 3, 2010, 23. Michael J. Berens, “Elephants Are Dying Out in America’s Zoos”, The Seattle Times, Dec. 4, 2012. 24. Silvia H. Cardoso, Ph.D. , and Renato M.E. SabbatiniPh.D., “The Animal That Weeps”, The Dana Foundation, Apr. 1, 2002. 25. Olivier Monnier, “Elephant Conflict With Villagers Prompts Ivory Coast Action”, Bloomberg, Jan. 27, 2014. 26. Kali S. Grech, “Detailed Discussion of Laws Affecting Zoos”, Animal Legal and Historical Center, Michigan State University School of Law, 2004. 27. Mykal McEldowney, “What Killed Joy the Elephant?”, Greenville Online, July 14, 2014. 28. FAQ,, retrived Sept. 16, 2016.

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder


29. Sunquist, F.; Sunquist, M., “Wild Cats of the World”. Chicago, USA: The University of Chicago Press. 2004, pp. 14–36 30. Estes, R.D., “The Behavior Guide to African Mammals: Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates (4th ed.)”. Berkeley, USA: University of California Press, 2004, pp. 377–83. 31. Pappas, S. "Wow! 11-year-old cheetah Breaks Land Speed Record". LiveScience, March 24, 2016. 32. Taylor, M.E., "Carnivore Behavior, Ecology, and Evolution". Locomotor Adaptations by Carnivores. New York, USA: Springer, 1989, pp. 382–409. 33. “Polar Bear”, Detroit, 34. “Home Range”, Polar Bears International, 35. Michael J. Berens, “Elephants Are Dying Out in America’s Zoos”, The Seattle Times, Dec. 4, 2012. 36. “Zoos: An Idea Whose Has Come and Gone,” PETA, 37. Orietta C. Estrada, “10 Reasons to Skip Your Next Zoo Visit,” One Green Planet, Dec. 9, 2013. 38. Nicole Meyer, “Closeup of a Bullhook”, In Defense of Animals, Aug. 3, 2010.

Are Zoos Misleading Us? Ten Points to Ponder  

An expose of the $16 billion zoo industry and what they don't want the public to know. Written by wildlife conservationist Phillip Hathaway,...

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