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The best place for a wild animal is in their natural habitat, but too often (and for many different reasons) wild animals end up as exhibits in zoos. We’ve seen the face of captivity, and many of us are now realizing that even though there are some zoos that do a fine job of caring for their animals, the ultimate goal is simply for them to live in peace in the wild where they belong.

Elephants are fairly common animals in zoos, but the conditions for them there vary greatly from what they would experience in the wild. In their natural habitat, they would be able to walk more, live in large herds, inhabit their natural climate, and hopefully experience life away from the more negative types of human interaction.

In Defense of Animals (IDA), a national Animal rights organization, has just released a list of the ten worst zoos for elephants — places where elephants are far removed from experiencing life even remotely close to what they would find their natural habitats.

Nicole Meyer, director of IDA’s Elephant Protection Campaign, said that this ten-year anniversary of the “worst zoo list” should “have been enough, but as long as zoos continue to house elephants in substandard exhibits that sacrifice the animals’ welfare, IDA will continue to call out the worst offenders … It’s high time for the zoo industry to stop paying lip service and start taking meaningful action to improve conditions for the hundreds of elephants languishing — and dying prematurely — in zoos across North America.”

Zoos that make the list do so for the following reasons: health problems, lack of space, cold climates, unnatural behaviors, social issues between elephants, solitary elephants, breeding issues, premature deaths, and management style.

In addition to the yearly list, the IDA has a “Hall of Shame” for repeat offenders that have made little to no progress for their elephants over the years.

The full list and descriptions of each offense can be found on IDA’s website, but for a quick overview, here are the zoos that have made it into the IDA’s top 10:

  1. San Antonio Zoo (6th time on list)
  2. Edmonton Valley Zoo (4th time on list)
  3. Little Rock Zoo (2nd time on list)
  4. Buttonwood Park Zoo (4th time on list)
  5. Bronx Zoo (3rd time on list)
  6. Saint Louis Zoo (6th time on list)
  7. Woodland Park Zoo
  8. Oregon Zoo (5th time on list)
  9. Wildlife Safari (3rd time on list)
  10. Denver Zoo

According to the IDA, San Antonio tops the list because of “its stubborn and selfish insistence on keeping a female Asian elephant named Lucky in solitary confinement following Queenie’s death in March. The American Zoological Association, which knows better, sanctioned this despicable decision by handing the zoo a variance from industry ‘standards,’ allowing the zoo to keep Lucky alone, likely until she dies.”

In the past, zoos featured on the list have been compelled to act in a way that benefits the elephants. Public transparency and scrutiny is important, especially for organizations like zoos who claim to be acting in the best interest of the animals for the public. If you live near one of these zoos, be sure to politely inquire about their treatment of elephants in regards to the IDA’s list. As always, there are plenty of other ways to appreciate wild animals than to view them in the confines of a zoo exhibit.

Image Source: Lnk.Si/Flickr