San Diego Zoo Safari Park Earns Dishonorable Mention On In Defense Of Animals’ 2011 “Ten Worst Zoos For Elephants” List



Contact: Catherine Doyle, 323-301-5730,

San Diego, Calif. (January 17, 2012) – The 2011 list of the Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants, released yesterday by In Defense of Animals (IDA), once again exposes the hidden suffering of elephants in zoos, where lack of space, unsuitably cold climates and unnatural conditions condemn Earth’s largest land mammals to lifetimes of deprivation, disease and early death. The list is in its eighth year.

A promising trend toward the closure of inadequate elephant displays continued in 2011 and includes zoos that have appeared on IDA’s annual list. The most recent are the Central Florida Zoo and Southwick’s Zoo in Massachusetts. The Toronto Zoo’s appearance on the 2009 list sparked a campaign that led to the closure of that exhibit in 2012. This brings the number of zoos that have closed or will close their elephant exhibits to 22, and zoo experts expect that number to rise.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park earned a Dishonorable Mention with the following entry:

Dishonorable Mention: San Diego Zoo Safari Park – Baby elephant mill. Reckless breeding practices have overpopulated an already too-small exhibit and resulted in the death of a female elephant named Umoya, who was killed by another elephant. But this “baby elephant mill” will continue to produce as many calves as possible in order to stock inadequate zoo exhibits around the country – even though the zoo has single-handedly aggravated the critical problem of surplus males in captivity by producing eight males calves in the last eight years. As a result, bonded females and their male calves will be traumatically separated from other mother-calf pairs and sent to other zoos; later, the males will be taken from their mothers and sent to yet another zoo in a never-ending cycle of misery.

Another result of IDA’s relentless advocacy for elephants in zoos has been the creation of an historic management policy by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The new policy calls for an end to handling that requires keepers to share the same unrestricted space with elephants. If the AZA is serious about enforcing this policy, it will facilitate an end to the use of the bullhook, a weapon used by keepers to threaten and often inflict painful physical punishment.

“IDA’s Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list illustrates the many serious problems that condemn elephants to lives of misery in zoos,” said IDA Elephant Campaign Director Catherine Doyle. “These include abnormal repetitive behaviors, hyper-aggression, social isolation, and deadly conditions such as foot and joint disease caused by lack of space and movement.”

“Scientific research has shown what elephants need: space to walk miles every day, large families with whom to spend their lives, and rich natural environments,” said Doyle. “Caging elephants in zoo displays is not humane and it is not conservation.”

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Contact: Catherine Doyle, 323-301-5730,






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