Winter is closing in on Wanda and Winky - Zoo Vs. Sanctuary
An Animal Rights Article from

December 2004

Wanda and Winky are moving, but no one seems to know exactly where.

The aging Asian elephants have been residents at the Detroit Zoo for more than 10 years, but zoo officials decided last spring that Wanda and Winky deserve more than what they could offer.
The Detroit Zoo made the unsolicited decision to relocate the elephants to a place more conducive to their needs. Elephants are highly intelligent and social creatures that need a large environment, a large group of elephants and a much milder climate - all of which cannot be offered in the confines of the Detroit Zoo.

Wanda, 46, and Winky, 51, are suffering the effects of a climate too cold and an enclosure too small. Wanda has arthritis in her front legs and has been receiving treatment for it for a number of years. Winky also has foot problems that are probably related to her not lying down, even to sleep.

Their 1-plus acre enclosure at the Detroit Zoo is not enough to meet their needs. In the wild, they live in warm climates and roam vast areas among their large families.

Recognizing their needs, Detroit Zoo officials had hoped to move Wanda and Winky to a wildlife sanctuary by the end of the summer. The plan hit a snag recently when the group that regulates the care of zoo animals said the elephants must go to another zoo, if anywhere. A committee of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association said that if Winky and Wanda are to move, it should be to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

"The Columbus Zoo has five elephants - including a male calf - and four acres, including a one-acre, indoor heated, temperature-controlled facility," said association director Sydney Butler.

Even though Detroit's one-acre enclosure vastly exceeds American Zoo and Aquarium Association standards, Detroit Zoo Institute Director Ron Kagan said zoos generally are incapable of providing for the social, physical and emotional needs of the animals.

The Detroit Zoo still wants to send 51-year-old Winky and 46-year-old Wanda to one of two U.S. sanctuaries. There, they would be able to roam hundreds of acres and get the exercise they would in the wild, where elephants can walk 30 miles a day.

To complicate matters more, since both elephants are part of the AZA's Elephant Species Survival Plan, and the San Antonio Zoo owns Wanda, the final decision regarding their placement is ultimately only partly Detroit's.

"Detroit Zoological officials feel that the AZA standards and guidelines for elephants are inadequate and do not address several important issues, such as the impact of weather," the Detroit Zoo said. "Zoo officials have the option to appeal the AZA's recommendation and are preparing a response."

Violating the association's recommendation by sending the elephants to a sanctuary could mean disciplinary action against the Detroit Zoo and possible revocation of its accreditation. There could be further repercussions for sending Wanda elsewhere, because she is on loan to Detroit from the San Antonio Zoo, which supports the group's recommendation.

While the humans involved debate Wanda and Winky's future, the elephants' physical and psychological conditions are not getting any better and the cold, wet days of fall and winter are closing in.

These animals deserve to live out their days in an environment as close to their natural habitat as possible. And wherever they go, they should go together, since Wanda and Winky have bonded during their 10 years together.

Zoos plays a vital role in education and in preventing the extinction of various species, but they cannot provide everything for every animal.

We urge the organizations involved to keep the elephants' welfare foremost in their minds when deciding Wanda and Winky's futures.

The San Antonio Mayor
Mayor Ed Garza
P.O. Box 83996
San Antonio,TX
[email protected]

The San Antonio Express-News (the local newspaper)
Scott Huddleston: [email protected]
or Bob Rivard [email protected]

Steve McCusker
San Antonio Zoo
3903 N. St. Mary’s St.
San Antonio, TX 78212-3199
210-734-7184 Ext 110
210-734-7291 (fax)
[email protected]

Committee members deciding WW appeal.
Kevin Bell, Director
Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614-4757
312-742-2336 (fax)
[email protected]  

Mr. Kevin Willis
Minnesota Zoo
13000 Zoo Blvd
Apple Valley, MN 55124-8199
Tel: (952) 431-9200 Fax: (952) 431-9300
E-Mail: [email protected]  

TOTAL QUICK EMAIL LIST....Most are the zoo's global email but hopefully they will forward your email on the pertinent person at the zoo if you address all the committee member as in the previous post .  I addressed my email, enough to get them to open the email and not delete it.  If you don't do anything else for W/W  PLEASE send a line to this list...THANKYOU.   
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