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Zoo Knoxville’s Elephants Are Going to a Sanctuary - However...

From IDA In Defense of Animals
September 2022

In Defense of Animals is thrilled to announce that Zoo Knoxville has made the compassionate choice to send its three African elephants to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.... However, on a troubling note, Zoo Knoxville has a “master plan” that could include bringing in more elephants, likely younger ones, who are capable of breeding.

Zoo Knoxville Elephants

In Defense of Animals is thrilled to announce that Zoo Knoxville has made the compassionate choice to send its three African elephants to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Lucky Jana, Edie, and Tonka can soon begin their new lives in a serene, quiet, and spacious setting, far from the confines of a cramped and noisy city zoo. The zoo recognizes that it cannot provide for the complex needs of these senior elephants. The elephants, who are all in their 40s, except Edie who is 39, are old by zoo standards and have endured many conditions and diseases that are endemic to zoos.

After decades in inadequate enclosures that are barren of everything that allows an elephant to be a real elephant, these fortunate three will now enjoy roaming on vast acres of trees, grass, hills, and ponds. They will no longer be on display as tourist attractions. They will be free to go where their hearts desire, with all their needs met by a loving team of caregivers. Captured in the wild at very young ages, and confined in a zoo for decades, these elephants will now live out their days in an environment that is as close to the wild as possible. The zoo plans to send the two females to the sanctuary first and then by the end of 2023 the male Tonka will make the move. The zoo is busy preparing the elephants for transport in crates.

However, on a troubling note, Zoo Knoxville has a “master plan” that could include bringing in more elephants, likely younger ones, who are capable of breeding. While we wholeheartedly concur with the zoo's decision to retire its older elephants, we also urge the zoo to halt any plans to repopulate its exhibit with more elephants, who will only suffer and die in captivity. The jury is in, elephant experts agree, that elephants do not belong in zoos.


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