First they came for our elephants....

The Philadelphia Zoo's plan to get rid of its elephants (which involves a protracted dispute with local activists) has run into a new problem. The Maryland Zoo won't take Philadelphia's elephants, which has forced the Zoo to look elsewhere:

Caught by surprise last week when the Maryland Zoo backed out of a deal to adopt its three African elephants, the Philadelphia Zoo is now searching for a home for the animals at institutions within a day's drive of here.

The Pittsburgh Zoo and the North Carolina Zoo, which had been considered and are poised to open expanded African elephant habitats, seemed likely prospects.

Andy Baker, the Philadelphia Zoo vice president leading the search, would say only that he was looking mainly at zoos in the Atlantic seaboard area with African collections and that he had made contact with a number of potential homes.

"Closer is better," he said. "Petal is 50 years old and it's been a long time since she's moved."

Not only would a one-day move be less stressful for the elephants, but the closer locations offer breeding programs:
"Closer is better," he said. "Petal is 50 years old and it's been a long time since she's moved."

Her companions, Kallie, 24, and Bette, 23, are in their reproductive prime and attempts will be made to breed them wherever the three end up.

Pittsburgh is a major breeding center, with two calves born in the last eight years, and two more on the way, plus four adults.

Likewise, the North Carolina Zoo may be interested, and it also has a breeding program:
The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, which is doubling its elephant exhibit to seven acres, is also acquiring.

It has two females and a male who has not been a successful stud, said Rod Hackney, zoo spokesman. As it adds elephants, it will be looking for a bull and breeding-age females.

Surely, the local activists would never oppose placing the elephants in larger facilities with bona fide elephant breeding programs, would they? If you think they wouldn't, think again. They want all the elephants moved to elephant sanctuaries (where, as I'll show, breeding is not allowed):
Philadelphia's Baker said he was not exploring a sanctuary placement for the elephants, which local activists are urging.

Friends of the Philly Zoo Elephants gathered over the weekend at the zoo entrance to push the sanctuary option for the Africans and to say goodbye to Dulary, 42, the zoo's Asian elephant, who is scheduled to move next month to the Elephant Sanctuary in rural Tennessee. That sanctuary is not accepting Africans.

In a statement released last week, Marianne Bessey, a spokeswoman for the Friends group, said another sanctuary, the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in California, had offered them a home.

"The Philadelphia Zoo has a wonderful opportunity to do what is best for Kallie, Bette and Petal and send them to a place where they will finally have a life free of bullhooks and chains," Bessey said.

A wonderful opportunity? But is it a wonderful oppportunity for the elephants to be trucked 3000 miles across the country?

Not according to the animal rights group "In Defense of Animals." In 2003, an IDAUSA alert -- "Protest San Diego Zoo's Great Elephant Betrayal" -- stated that moving elephants from California to Texas (a distance considerably shorter than Pennsylvania to California) was not only harmful, but possibly fatal:

Elephant experts warn that physical stress of being dragged into trailers and hauled thousands of miles across state lines could actually kill the elephants.
While the Inquirer article doesn't go into detail as to why, reading between the lines it becomes clear that sanctuaries do not pay Zoos the going market rate for elephants. Far from it. Nor do they simply take elephants that zoos are willing to donate:
Pat Derby, cofounder of PAWS, said there was room for the Philadelphians in the sanctuary's 75-acre African habitat, but added, "It's more than saying, 'Ship them out here.' "

"We'd have to evaluate the elephants, the zoo would have to want to send them, and our veterinarians would have to go there," she said in an interview.

Any idea who is supposed to pay?

I don't know, but looking through some of the links at the PAWS web site, I suspect the sanctuary would want the zoo to pay, and heavily. When the typically-vilified Hawthorn Corporation "donated" elephants to the sanctuary, it was uncharacteristically called "generous" for making what was termed a "donation""

An agreement between the Hawthorn Corporation and PAWS will allow the two elephants to retire to a permanent home at the spacious ARK2000 sanctuary in San Andreas, CA. Beyond donating the elephants, the Hawthorn Corporation is also making a generous financial donation to PAWS in order to fund initial arrangements for PAWS to receive the elephants. Upon approval by regulatory agencies, the two elephants will be transported to Galt, CA. to be housed at the old PAWS elephant facility until a Bull Elephant Habitat can be constructed at ARK2000. The Hawthorn Corporation and PAWS are each delighted and excited that their cooperation will enable Nicholas and Gypsy now to find a lasting home together.

Ed Stewart and Pat Derby, PAWS Directors, are initiating a capital campaign for the costly construction.

Derby states that "In order for PAWS to be able to take Nicholas, we are launching a fullscale capital campaign to raise the funds necessary to build a home for Nicholas at ARK2000." Stewart projects the costs to be one million dollars and construction will take at least one year.

Yeah, a million here, a million there, and pretty soon we're talking real money?

However, male elephant transfers might be more expensive than those of females, for when PAWS discussed the transfer costs of another elephant named "Ruby", the figure was closer to half a million dollars:

So far, animal activists have raised $260,000 to transfer Ruby to a sanctuary, which will be matched up to $300,000 from game show host Bob Barker. The funds would cover the costs of transferring Ruby to the sanctuary and pay for her care once she arrives.
What the general public would not realize from reading the Inquirer article is that zoos and these "elephant sanctuaries" are based on two hopelessly incompatible, mutually irreconcilable philosophies. Zoos believe that there is nothing wrong with keeping elephants in captivity, or breeding them. The sanctuary movement (along with the animal rights movement) believes that people should not be allowed to see elephants, which should never be kept in captivity, and which should not be bred. Accordingly, (as the Deseret Morning News reported, breeding is not allowed in elephant sanctuaries. Because, you know, "captive breeding" is an evil thing, a no-no:
Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago wants Wankie to live at a zoo accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, said Kelly McGrath, zoo spokeswoman. "We know what that means -- the highest quality of animal care and a commitment to conservation and education," McGrath said. "We believe that it's only that up-close experience with wildlife that fosters a long-term concern for animals, not just in zoos but in the wild."

PAWS is not accredited by AZA. Hogle's AZA accreditation is valid until September 2009.

Meyer objects to what she calls AZA zoo captive breeding programs, in which elephants are "shuffled from zoo to zoo like baseball cards irregardlessSIC of the bonds they may have," she said. "It's literally bringing any animal to the same deprivation that its parents are."

Sanctuaries do not allow breeding and have more space for animals that can roam tens of miles each day looking for food.

PAWS Director Pat Derby said she does not think the zoo will send Wankie to her sanctuary, but she hopes that "all of this conflict over elephants could be resolved in a way that would benefit the elephant."

Therefore, at these sanctuaries, bulls and females are not allowed to interact with each other, but are kept separated.

Ordinary Inquirer readers (who are for the most part not activists) simply cannot be expected to realize that the elephant sanctuaries are, simply, a dead end. I'm sure the Philadelphia Zoo knows this; in any event PAWS founder and director Pat Derby confirms it herself here:

We always say that although people think running a sanctuary is a wonderful thing, we would hope that in the future there would not be a need for them. We often say that we are working hard to put ourselves out of business. The happiest day of my life would be to see no captive wildlife at all and these animals in their natural habitat. People who are really concerned about wild or exotic animals need to support efforts to protect their habitat.
No captive wildlife at all?

But doesn't that mean the end of zoos? I hate to put it so bluntly, but unless I am mistaken, a zoo which "donates" an elephant by forking over money to one of these sanctuaries is ultimately contributing to its own demise.

Why on earth would the Philadelphia Zoo be expected do such a thing?

Because activists say so? Because Pat Derby (a former Hollywood animal trainer who has seen the light) says so?

Make no mistake, the latter has repeatedly stated that she is against breeding animals in captivity -- a practice she deems "hypocrisy":

The hypocrisy of breeding animals in captivity who will be doomed to live in unnatural enclosures in the name of conservation and science is a practice which should be eliminated by AZA and replaced with truthful information about captivity and the compelling need to protect wild species and their habitat.
But I'll say this for Pat Derby: at least she is consistent. She is a supporter of the notorious (veterinarian-condemned) Guardian Campaign, and in her public statement, she likens the ownership of wild animals to the ownership of human beings:
"In 1973 in my book The Lady and Her Tiger, I wrote, 'Wild animals are not meant to be owned, any more than human beings are. No one has the right to pass a cougar or gorilla from hand to hand, not for the purest of motives. Now, twenty-three years later, I feel even more strongly about this issue. The Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) pledges its support to IDA's Guardian Campaign."
I've written about this movement before, and I think its true goal is honestly characterized here:
The ultimate goal is to abolish the raising of farm animals, animals in medical research, in zoos or aquariums and to end the breeding and selling of pedigreed cats, purebred dogs and other pets.
People interested in reading about the full legal ramifications should also read this. The American Kennel Club also has more, as does this veterinarians group which points out that the goal is to make it illegal to buy or sell all animals.

By "all" they do mean all. I think the movement against elephants in zoos is just part of a larger agenda which wants to criminalize all animal breeding, and end the keeping of pets. I've gone so far as to call it an anti-dog movement, because I think it really is that and more.

I'd hate to see the Philadelphia Zoo assist this movement in any way.

posted by Eric on 03.26.07 at 11:06 AM


Has the Philadelphia zoo considered turning its elephants into biltong? Elephant biltong (similar to jerky) is a popular South African snack food. It is sometimes sold to Western tourists in African national parks. I have never been to the Philly zoo, but if they already sell snack food at the zoo, why not sell elepahnt biltong as well? It would get rid of the elephants and bring in some extra income to the zoo.

Chocolatier   ·  March 26, 2007 12:08 PM

People have to believe in something.

This is about as stupid as any other belief.

M. Simon   ·  March 26, 2007 4:25 PM

Stupid beliefs don't especially bother me. The problem here is the attempt to destroy America's oldest zoo.

Eric Scheie   ·  March 26, 2007 6:03 PM

You people are nauseating, and the elephant jerky comment is especially puerile, as well as pathetically ignorant. The commentary about PAWS and Pat Derby is completely inaccurate. Why don't you bother doing some research before posting such idiocy?

This entire Blog rant about the Philly Zoo contains so many misstatements it's ludicrous. The elephants there live horrible lives, they are chained, they are nothing more than slaves. Obviously you think that's fine, so a person such as yourself deserves no only pity, but contempt.

Candace   ·  April 1, 2007 11:37 AM

Candace, thanks for coming, but I have a few disagreements with what you said.

The commentary about PAWS and Pat Derby is completely inaccurate. Why don't you bother doing some research before posting such idiocy?

I never heard of Pat Derby until I read the Inquirer article. The quotes and information about her come from the PAWS web site and other animal rights sites. It's clear to me that she is against the ownership and breeding of elephants as well as other animals. If that is "completely inaccurate," please explain.

Likewise, you made a general assertion that regarding the Philly Zoo I made "so many misstatements it's ludicrous." Such as what? I don't think I did much more than quote the Inquirer, and express my opinion that the zoos and sanctuaries have different philosophies. Zoos tend to believe it is not wrong to keep or breed elephants in captivity.

Characterizations like "idiocy," "nauseating" and "deserves []contempt" are simply ad hominem insults, and not persuasive.

As to the comment about jerky, I think it's quite obvious that Chocolatier meant it as humor.

But was it "pathetically ignorant"? Not if this is any indication:

As a South African, I have spent most of my childhood gnawing on sticks of biltong. These are strips or sticks of dried meat, usually spiced in a variety of ways: chilli/BBQ/spicy/plain etc. Biltong can be made from most game. There are different types of biltong: wet and fatty tends to be softer meat with more fat than usual while dry is usually tough and chewy. I discovered the best biltong I have ever tasted on my last trip to Kruger Park: Elephant biltong. It was the most tender, tasty biltong I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying?full in flavour and easy to chew. I highly recommend you try some of the varieties on offer. Many of the shops in the park now sell biltong from a variety of game ? everything from buffalo, to elephant to impala. Be daring and try something new!
I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting selling it at zoos, but it does appear to be sold in South Africa, as Chocolatier said.

Finally, I have to disagree with your assessment that zoo elephants are "slaves," as that's a misuse of the word.

No animal can legally be considered a slave. Only humans can be slaves, just as only humans can be robbed, murdered, or raped. The word "slave" in the context of animals may indicate a desire to eliminate the distinction between animals and humans. If that is what you think, I simply disagree.

Eric Scheie   ·  April 1, 2007 3:10 PM

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