An aging elephant starts debate about zoos
There's an elephant in the Dallas Zoo who is getting old, too old to stay in the zoo, and a current debate is raging about what to do with her. She has suffered from depression and an elephant form of PTSD, and is considered a 'special needs' elephant.
The zoo wants to send her to the Africam Safari Park in Puebla, Mexico, but protestors and world-renowned elephant experts want her to go to a 2,700 sanctuary in Tennessee for traumatized elephants.
The elephant in question, called Jenny, is now in the middle of a worldwide debate, between zoos and animal rights groups that would rather see a world without any elephant exhibts.
The fight pits a loose coalition of elephant experts and animal rights advocates against the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a powerful private group based in Maryland that accredits zoos in North America.
Animal rights advocates have long argued that elephants in most zoos lack enough space and, as a consequence, suffer from foot ailments, arthritis and psychological problems.
For its part, the zoo association has clung to its traditions, saying the size of an enclosure matters less than the care elephants receive from zookeepers. It has also tried to keep the 300 elephants in its network of more than 78 zoos from being sent to sanctuaries, where the zoos could no longer use them for breeding.
The local media have been swarmed with letters about the issue, and everyone seems to be up in arms about the zoo's decision. The zoo seems set on the Mexican animal park, but the santuary in Tennessee is much more hands off than the park in Mexico and there, Jenny would be allowed to live out the rest of her life in peace.
“Why would we want her last years to be in a drive-through zoo in Mexico when she could have 300 acres in the lush Tennessee countryside?” said Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who has visited both destinations.
Experts in the field say zoo directors are cliquish and tend to move animals to other zoos in their association rather than considering the benefits of a sanctuary, which many zoo officials see as part of an anti-zoo movement. The association can also make or break a zoo director’s career
For now Jenny is still in Dallas, and happy most days, according to her keepers, but Jenny's plight does raise a few questions about what happens to zoo animals when they get too old to pull in the crowds and 'perform' for visitors? Let's hope Jenny can live out her days in peace, wherever she goes.