Monday, February 8, 2010

"Solitary, cold confinement"

Earlier this month, newspapers reported cruel treatment of elephants in zoos. What else is new?

Maggie, formerly of the Alaska zoo and now in a California sanctuary, is the “poster pachyderm” for elephants who were finally freed, thanks to months or more of public protest. But as the latest survey makes clear, there are plenty of other elephants still in captivity (i.e., zoos) – that is, unnatural and unhealthy conditions.

“In Defense of Animals” (IDA), the zoo watchdog organization, reports that “scores of elephants are warehoused throughout the long winter months in miserable confinement, many of them hidden from the public.” Small concrete cages, which keep them from getting the movement they need, contribute to mental and physical problems, and premature deaths.

Usually native to semi-arid savannas and tropical and subtropical forests, elephants typically travel in groups over miles and miles of their home ranges each day. Instead, elephants in American and Canadian zoos stand for hours on cold, hard concrete floors. Is there any wonder they contract food diseases and arthritis, and engage in aberrant behavior?

Included in the survey IDA conducted were zoos in such UN-savanna-like places as Illinois, Rhode Island, Ohio, Quebec, Massachusetts, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New York.

This issue really comes down to zoos: what they exist to do and how they do it. Is keeping an elephant in solitary, cold confinement teaching visitors anything accurate about how elephants normally live? Of course not.

No comments: