Animal advocates are celebrating another victory for captive elephants with news that the Buffalo Zoo in New York is finally closing its exhibit.
The zoo announced this week that its two Asian elephants, 36-year-old Jothi and 35-year-old Supara, will be headed to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans this fall, where they’ll be able to enjoy a far more appropriate climate away from Buffalo’s frigid winters.
The news is being welcomed by In Defense of Animals (IDA), which has featured the Buffalo Zoo on its annual list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants five times over the past ten years, and recently requested both elephants’ most recent medical records from the Buffalo Zoo and the City of Buffalo.
Fantastic news for #elephants! Your actions in defense of Supara & Jothi helped us shut down #BuffaloZoo’s brutal elephant exhibit!https://t.co/zraL6Imh4R pic.twitter.com/CwYhvyvSbz
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— InDefenseOfAnimals (@IDAUSA) August 15, 2018
Not only have these two elephants been forced to endure lives in small, barren enclosures, the winters there leave trapped inside for months where they’re kept on hard surfaces, which are known to cause pain, illness and premature deaths.
Video footage taken of them shows them swaying, or exhibiting stereotypic behaviors of elephants that are known to be stressed and unhappy.
“We are delighted that Buffalo Zoo will let Jothi and Supara thaw out in a more suitable climate. In Defense of Animals has actively and arduously worked to free these elephants from their decrepit, unsuitable zoo conditions for over a decade. This is a positive move for Jothi and Supara, but we will continue our work to get them to an accredited elephant sanctuary where they can live as elephants instead of as exhibits. One less miserably freezing zoo exhibit for tropical elephants is a cause for great celebration,” said Dr. Toni Frohoff, elephant scientist for IDA.
The news also comes just days after IDA called on all zoos to release their elephants to sanctuaries for World Elephant Day over concerns about their welfare.
While the industry continues to claim keeping elephants in captivity supports education and conservation, and gives people an opportunity to see them up close, it’s caused immense suffering to both individuals, and to those in the wild by taking more to keep its supply.
Captivity may help if elephants were ever going to be returned to the wild, but that isn’t part of the Species Survival Plan for elephants in U.S. zoos, or the goal elsewhere.
Now, however, there’s one less zoo keeping them, and once Jothi and Supara head south, the Bronx Zoo will be the last zoo in the state to keep Asian elephants in captivity, which has also made multiple appearances on the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants list.
“Buffalo Zoo has made a positive move for these animals and brought New York a step closer to being free of elephant abuse. Three other Asian elephants are still suffering in New York’s freezing winter climate at the Bronx Zoo, especially Happy the elephant who is kept in tortuous solitary confinement. We call on the Bronx Zoo to have compassion and release the elephants to a sanctuary where they can retire in peace,” said Dr. Marilyn Kroplick, President of IDA.
Photo credit: Derek Gee-Buffalo News/IDA