Animal Writes
From 31 July 2005 Issue

El Paso Zoo Elephants Won't Be Packing Their Trunks
By Greg Lawson - [email protected] 

On Wednesday, July 27, the El Paso city council held a special meeting to decide the fate of Savannah and Juno, our two zoo elephants. Despite the logical arguments presented to support sending them to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, our city council voted unanimously to keep them in the zoo. It was obvious that most of them had their minds made up before the presentations even began.

The council chamber is divided into two sections and the "keep our elephants in the zoo" faction had only slightly more people than the "retire them" section. They were wearing incongruous signs around their necks saying "Save Our Elephants," hey, we want to save the elephants, too, you losers. It used to be in the old days, that Animal Rights Activists wore signs and carried banners, they looked pretty stupid compared to our side. I was told that zoo employees and volunteers were urged to go to the meeting and that employees received paid time off to attend. I wonder if they got more pay for wearing a stupid sign around their neck? Did they possibly equate that with the chains most zoo elephants wear during the night? Somehow I doubt it.

The speakers for the "keep them in cages" faction argued that outside agitators should not be allowed to determine city policy in El Paso and that they had gathered 9 thousand signatures on petitions to keep the elephants. Jane Poss, cofounder of Concerned Citizens for Savannah and Juno, pointed out that we weren't outside agitators, but were citizens of El Paso and constituents of our elected representatives. Jane told them that we had given them 3 thousand names on petitions to retire the elephants and that an additional 6 thousand postcards expressing that sentiment had been thrown away by the previous mayor when he left office a few months ago.

One city council representative said that he was upset that this issue was getting world-wide attention on a number of animal rights websites and that he had gotten emails from around the world. He said in effect that he wished we had been able to keep a lid on this issue and solve the problem locally. He said that PeTA endorsed the work of The Elephant Sanctuary, his attempt to try to equate the sanctuary with a known "animal rights terrorist" group that has lost some popularity lately. I have news for you, Mr. Representative, people all over the world who are concerned about elephants in captivity are watching El Paso and you won't be able to keep our treatment of elephants a secret.

Carol Buckley, one of the founders of The Elephant Sanctuary, informed the council that of all the elephants who die in captivity, three out of every four die or are euthanized due to chronic foot infections, the kind of problems that plague both Savannah and Juno. When these creatures are euthanized in the foreseeable future because of conditions at their 7/10 of an acre enclosure are not improved, the world will still be watching, and yes, Mr. Representative, you will have another flood of email. Get Ready for it.

A little over a year ago the Detroit Zoo made the decision, for ethical reasons, to close their elephant exhibit and retire their elephants to a sanctuary. In March, the San Francisco Zoo made the same move. The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago was urged to send its three elephants to a sanctuary, but they refused. Within the last year, all three elephants died, two from tuberculosis and one from "old age." She was in her early fifties, elephants live past 70 in the wild. Since then, the elephant exhibit in Chicago has been closed and hopefully will not reopen.

One really dumb city council member suggested that we animal rights people are only in it for the money, that The Elephant Sanctuary is a booming business that takes in over a million dollars a year in donations. How absurd and stupid. All the donations to the sanctuary go towards care for the elephants and advocacy and education. This city council member even had the audacity to complain that people couldn't visit the elephants at The Elephant Sanctuary, as if that should be a right of us humans, and that the sanctuary didn't have a breeding program.

Carol Buckley pointed out that there are too many captive elephants in deplorable conditions around the country and that breeding them in sanctuaries is not a good idea. If you want to save the species, work with programs to save them in their home habitat.

The Sanctuary is a place to let elephants learn how to be elephants again and to be with others of their kind. It is not a place for humans to gawk at them. Zoo officials argued that they are saving endangered species by keeping the elephants. Both Savannah and Juno are females unable to bear offspring, how is this preserving the species? El Paso Zoo has become a place to retire elephants from other zoos and circus elephants to die.

The El Paso Zoo is listed as one of the top ten worst zoos for elephants by In Defense of Animals. Zoos across the country are coming under increased scrutiny because of their treatment of these intelligent creatures. Our fight isn't over yet. Animal advocates in El Paso will continue to monitor this situation and to advocate for change. We have increased awareness in our city, by a little bit, about the conditions for elephants at our zoo. I just hope we don't have to tell our elected officials "We told you so."

For more information or to make a donation, go to

Go on to Senator Santorum on PAWS
Return to 31 July 2005 Issue
Return to Newsletters

** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Home Page




Your comments and inquiries are welcome

This site is hosted and maintained by:
The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation
Thank you for visiting

Since date.gif (991 bytes)