The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has stripped the Toronto Zoo of their accreditation for allowing their three elephants to be retired to PAWS in California, a vast sanctuary in an elephant-friendly climate. The AZA said the Toronto Zoo contravened it’s governance rules when the Toronto City Council and Toronto Zoo Board, rather than Zoo officials, voted for the humane retirement of their elephants to a sanctuary instead of to another zoo.
The AZA, in flexing its muscles, is trying to send a message to other zoos about retiring their elephants to a life that is undeniably physically and psychologically healthier.
This decision reflects poorly upon the AZA by their putting ego before the improved welfare of the elephants in their care.
Renowned experts such as Jane Goodall said: “. . . there are some species, like elephants, which will always be unsuited to zoo environments. With their intense social bonds and need for large areas to roam, elephants should remain in the wild or when this is not possible, in a sanctuary that can provide them with adequate care, the chance to form natural bonds with other elephants, and large areas of natural habitat.”
Bamboo, Chai and Watoto, the three elephants at Woodland Park Zoo, desperately need to be retired to one of the two elephant sanctuaries. Only there can they heal from the traumas of the 16-17 hour lock up in a tiny barn stall for over half the year, access to less than one acre outdoors, and the lack of companionship of their choosing.
Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants asks the Seattle City Council and Woodland Park Zoological Society not to be bullied by the AZA. It is long overdue for them to show the same courage and compassion—based on science—as Toronto and retire Bamboo, Chai and Watoto to a sanctuary.
For more information about this unfortunate AZA behavior, check out the True Colors article in Psychology Today.