Zoo Industry Trade Group Caves to Public Pressure:
Okays Transfer of Elephants to Sanctuary
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Zoo Industry Trade Group Caves to Public Pressure:
Okays Transfer of Elephants to Sanctuary

December 2004

Please join us in celebrating today's announcement by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) reversing its opposition to the transfer of two arthritic elephants, Wanda and Winky, from the Detroit Zoo to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in Northern California.

"This is a clear victory for elephants and the ethical leadership of the Detroit Zoo," said Elliot Katz, DVM, president of IDA. "Its a shame that it took public controversy to force the AZA to place elephant welfare ahead of zoo industry interests."

The AZA, releasing news of its reversal late Friday evening, claims that it will reclassify the elephants as "non-essential" for breeding, paving the way for the Detroit Zoo to send the elephants to the sanctuary. Previously, the AZA ordered that the elephants be sent to the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, a facility that replicates the unsuitable conditions in Detroit, including limited space and a climate that forces the elephants to be confined indoors for months a time.

Small zoo enclosures prevent elephants from walking and foraging and force them to stand on hard, unnatural surfaces, a situation that causes recurrent foot problems and arthritis. Elephants in the wild walk up to fifty miles a day; AZA standards allow an elephant to be confined to space 1800 square feet the size of six parking spaces. A natural lifespan for an elephant is seventy years or longer. In zoos they die young, on average at thirty-four years of age. Infant mortality is also high, and most female elephants "flatline," or stop reproductive cycling, decades before their natural time.

With your help, IDA has been leading the battle for elephants in zoos, most recently winning the transfer of the San Francisco Zoo's two surviving elephants to the PAWS sanctuary.

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