Topeka Zoo Makes In Defense Of Animals’ 2011 “Ten Worst Zoos For Elephants” List

Grabs Number Four Spot


Contact: Catherine Doyle, 323-301-5730,

Topeka, Kan. (January 16, 2012) – The 2011 list of the Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants, released today 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 Topeka Zoo appears for the fourth time on IDA’s list with the following entry:

Topeka Zoo (Kansas) – The elephants in the room. This zoo faces formal charges by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for horrific violations of the Animal Welfare Act between April 2007 and July 2011. Though zoo director Brendan Wiley has been striving to make improvements, in order for this zoo to truly change it must address the plight of elephants Tembo and Sunda, who are living in shamefully inadequate conditions. Lack of space and standing indoors all winter has caused foot problems in both elephants, especially Sunda, who suffers chronic foot disease that can quickly turn deadly. Both elephants neurotically sway and rock. How many more winters can Tembo and Sunda survive confined in their tiny concrete barn? IDA hopes it won’t take the death of an elephant to get this zoo to do the right thing and close its elephant exhibit.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park (California) earns yet another dishonorable mention, and the San Antonio Zoo (Texas) becomes the newest inductee into the Worst Zoos for Elephants Hall of Shame, a special honor reserved for the worst repeat offenders.

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,

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization located in San Rafael, Calif. dedicated to protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitat through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in India, Africa, and rural Mississippi.


IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS • 3010 KERNER BLVD. • SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901 • 415-448-0048



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