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For the past 11 years, In Defense of Animals has released the “terrible ten,” the list of dishonorable mentions for zoos that house elephants in North America. The 2014 list is out. With the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle announcing its elephant exhibit will be closed (following years of pressure from IDA and the public), the list looks different than years before. Woodland Park Zoo was notorious for having one of the worst elephant exhibits in the U.S. and is one of 29 zoos that have either closed or plan to close their elephant exhibits.

“IDA’s 2014 list spotlights zoos representing the most appalling conditions for elephants, emphasizing an extended and egregious history of disregard for elephant care standards and science,” says Toni Frohoff, Ph.D., Elephant & Cetacean Scientist for In Defense of Animals. “Conservation cannot be used as an excuse for cruelty, especially when we know that elephants bred in captivity will not be released to the wild. The tens of millions of dollars spent keeping elephants in zoos could be used more wisely and compassionately for real conservation.”

Many of the zoos on this list do terrible things to their elephants such as keeping them in solitary confinement, using them for ridiculous spectacles, and exposing them to extreme conditions. Abusive training methods, such as the use of bull hooks, is also commonplace.

Without further ado, here are the worst ten zoos for elephants in North America.

1. Natural Bridge Zoo, Natural Bridge, VA

Although this is the Natural Bridge Zoo’s first time on this list, it shot right to the top. This zoo has a lone African elephant, Asha, who has been without companionship for almost ten years. As highly complex and social animals, elephants should never be kept alone. To makes matters worse for this elephant, she is forced to give rides to visitors and was trained by use of bull hook. Visitors of the zoo have complained about the obvious physical abuse Asha took in front of them. They reported that she was jabbed in the mouth with the stew-tipped bull hook. USDA has cited this place for the horrendous abuse it shows its poor elephant. This roadside zoo should be avoided at all costs.

2. San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX

We have heard of the atrocities the San Antonio Zoo inflicts on its resident animals. The last surviving elephant at this zoo lost her mate in 2007. Though they introduces another elephant a few years later, they were incompatible. Lucky has been alone ever since. Because of their lack of space, this zoo plans on keeping Lucky alone for the rest of her life. Though they have the option of sending Lucky to a better institution with other elephants, this zoo is going to keep Lucky sad and alone.

3. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo, CA

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has also been featured on One Green Planet as a terrible place to see exotic animals. This amusement park brings together a zoo, marine park and circus, all in one cruel place. According to IDA, this park has a horrific history of elephant suffering, mistreatment and deaths. It shows an utter and complete disregard for the health and well being of the elephants that live there. Not only is the noise and vibration from the roller coasters painful for the elephants, but now the resident elephants are being used for rides, and evidence of extreme abuse is rampant.

4. Buttonwood Park Zoo, New Bedford, MA

Buttonwood Park Zoo is home to two aging Asian elephants who are regularly exposed to the extreme weather found in this state. One of the elephants, Ruth, has undergone hypothermia, frostbite, repeated abuse by keepers, and attacks by the other elephants. USDA even cited this establishment with a failure to protect Ruth from the terrible weather. This didn’t stop Buttonwood Park, though. According to IDA, Ruth suffered frostbite on her ears, vulva and tail, resulting in the partial amputation of her tail. Both elephants suffer from chronic foot disease and arthritis. Thankfully, this zoo has pledged to phase out its elephant exhibit, but freedom can’t com fast enough for Ruth and Emily.

5. The Bronx Zoo, Bronx, NY

Though is pledged to close the doors to its elephant exhibit in 2006, the Bronx Zoo has done nothing about the terrible conditions its three elephants must endure. Happy, one of the three, has been forced to live in solitary confinement because he was picked on by the other elephants. The small enclosures and incredibly harsh winters make this a terrible place for the resident elephants.

6. Buffalo Zoo, Buffalo, NY

The bitter cold forces the two Asian elephants that live at the Buffalo Zoo to stay inside in their tiny cells. These elephants can barely turn around and, because they don’t get along, are forced to live separate from any other elephants. The Buffalo Zoo is the third oldest zoo in America, and it shows.

7. Wildlife Safari, Winston, OR

Elephants at this park have been dying prematurely of “natural” causes. They live in enclosures too small, and are even forced to do behaviors like working as a “car wash.”

8. Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee, WI

The incredibly cold Wisconsin winters force the two resident elephants at this zoo to spend their lies in a tiny facility. One wall is glass, allowing the public to see just how cramped the quarters really are.

9. Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Syracuse, NY

Despite male elephants needing to stay with their mothers until about 14 years old, this zoo decided to separate a six year old male elephant from his mother and ship him off the Canada, all for the sake of the breeding program. Unfortunately, elephants bred in captivity will never be able to live life in the wild, making this “conservation” program pointless.

10. Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL

In the past few years, there have been several, preventable deaths of elephants living at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. A pregnant mother died after the stress of transport, and a male died from a salmonella infection. There past dealing with other cruel zoos also helped to land this park on the IDA list.

Elephants are incredibly intelligent and emotionally complex animals. They are meant to live life with their herd, walk and forage, and carefully raise their young. These ten zoos do everything they can to prevent their resident elephants from living life like they should.

Lead image source: Richard Clark (Digimist)/Flickr

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0 comments on “The List is Out! Here are the Worst Zoos for Elephants in the U.S.”

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3 Years Ago

Are there not any zoo investigators out there - there are for almost everything else!

3 Years Ago

Zoos are bad for animals, especially elephants and polar bears. It\'s so sad. I won\'t go anymore and I will never take my kid.

Karen L. Lew
3 Years Ago

At the end of this article, there is an ad for free disount zoo tickets. Get rid of the ad! Not only does it not belong here, but zoos with wild animals, such as elephants, are heinous.

rob small
3 Years Ago

it amazes me that zoo officials and especially those that care for the animals would treat them with such disregard. i always thought that care givers of animals do just that, care for them.

Ellen Kessler
3 Years Ago

There are no good zoos anywhere in the world for elephants (or other animals). They belong in the wild, in guarded sanctuaries, with their families.

Ellen Kessler
12 Jan 2015

Here\'s a video of how elephants SHOULD live https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=855284291158657

Nancy D.
3 Years Ago

Very sad! It\'s important to keep the pressure on these zoos AND circuses w/live wildlife acts. There is a travelling circus in Ohio that has 2 elephants tethered so they can barely turn, and this circus keeps other wildlife in small enclosures. BOYCOTT these zoos/circuses to get the word out or report the abuse w/photo/video evidence so these places can be prosecuted for the abuse!

Captain Jack
3 Years Ago

I wouldn\'t say the Woodland Park Zoo is completely out of the woods yet. Their goal is to send the elephants to another zoo. Zoo officials have been opposed to sending the elephants to a sanctuary because they say the elephants are used to educate the community about conservation.They refuse to send them to PAWS because they are not an accredited zoo and the Tennessee sanctuary does not meet their criteria because some elephants there have diseases. There is also the issue of poachers in the sanctuary. Its a catch-22 for the elephants with no solutions in sight.

Alice Witt
12 Jan 2015

PAWS in CA is marvelous. No they are NOT a zoo, that is just the point which makes them (and the Elephant Sanctuary in TN) the absolute right place for zoo and circus elephants. They are both accredited as a sanctuary. The elephants in TN are not open for public viewing, they do have cams on site which you can access on the web. PAWS in CA does have open houses at the ARK, but human contact with the "visitors" is kept at a minimum. Without a really good cam/telephoto lens, you can hardly see them. The problem here seems to be Woodland Park\'s insistence on sending them to another zoo! Right; more of the same! Education is not looking at them confined in a small space, turning in circles, and swaying. Education is understanding these large beautiful creatures; learning about their natural habitat and behaviors. No zoo can really accomplish this. They are just show places which collect money.

Nancy D.
12 Jan 2015

@Captain Jack-Agreed. It\'s a sad situation for such beautiful, large mammals! I encourage people to take photo/video evidence of these places to document the abuse and to also boycott any live circus acts w/wild animals like we have here in Ohio and other states!

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