Campaigns - Philadelphia Zoo
Philadelphia Zoo – America’s First Zoo Stuck in the Past
The Philadelphia Zoo celebrated its 150-year-anniversary this year, but sadly, there is nothing to celebrate for the animals in the zoo, especially the elephants. For decades elephants at the zoo have been confined to a quarter-acre yard and a dismal 1,800-square-foot barn – roughly the area of six parking spots. That this amount of space meets current “standards” set by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) emphasizes the inadequate conditions approved by AZA. Of course AZA standards fall far short of even coming close to emulating an elephant's natural habitat of lush forests or savannahs and are associated with a host of serious maladies.
Save Philly Zoo elephants
In 2005 local residents organized a grassroots effort to send the four elephants at the Zoo to one of the two sanctuaries for elephants: the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in California or The Elephant Sanctuary (TES) in Tennessee. Since that time, only the Asian elephant Dulary, now 45 years old, is thriving – at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee where she moved in May 2007. The fate of the three African elephants is not so happy. In 2008, Petal, 52, died after collapsing in her cement stall in the middle of the night. Kallie and Bette, both 27, have remained in the zoo's Depression-era elephant exhibit and are slated to be shipped to a breeding facility outside Pittsburgh – a move strongly opposed by those campaigning to rescue the two elephants.
Elephants in the wild roam up to 30 miles a day, and therefore require a vast amount of acreage to maintain optimum physical and psychological health. Lack of space contributes to captivity-induced ailments such as degenerative joint disease, often-lethal foot problems, neurotic behaviors, colic and early reproductive shutdown. Due to inadequate living conditions, elephants in zoos die decades before their natural time, as documented by a seminal study published in the prestigious journal Science (December 2008). Recognizing the inadequacy of its current elephant exhibit, the Philadelphia Zoo had planned to build a new $22 million enclosure, but scrapped the plan due to lack of funds. Even at an enlarged 2.5 acres, the exhibit would still have been woefully insufficient for the world's largest land mammals, whose bodies are designed for almost constant movement on soft soil and varied terrain.
The sad story of the four elephants at Philadelphia Zoo has only one happy ending . . . so far.
In summer 2005, Dulary, the sole Asian elephant at Philadelphia Zoo, was gored near her eye by one of the African elephants and underwent surgery for the injury. Following the incident, Dulary was kept in solitary confinement for months while Zoo officials refused to let anyone - including members of the media - see her, despite numerous requests from concerned Philadelphia residents, animal advocacy groups, and local media outlets.
In October 2005, the Zoo announced it would not be moving forward with its new elephant exhibit.. A year later, zoo officials announced all four elephants would be sent to other facilities – Dulary, to The Elephant Sanctuary, and the three Africans to the Maryland Zoo to share a proposed new exhibit with resident elephants Dolly and Anna. The plans for Maryland fell through in March 2008, when Maryland Zoo, also lacking funds for a new exhibit, shelved its renovation plans as well. The Philadelphia Zoo then had to find a new place for the Africans. Although PAWS offered Petal, Kallie and Bette a lifetime home, the Zoo decided to wait until a breeding facility outside Pittsburgh was built. After four decades living in a decrepit 1940s-era exhibit at Philadelphia Zoo, 43-year-old Dulary finally arrived in May 2007 at her wonderful new home -- The Elephant Sanctuary (TES) in Tennessee! Here, she is socializing with 15 other Asian elephants and enjoying her spacious 2,200-acre naturalistic habitat.
Almost as soon as she stepped out of the trailer that transported her to TES, Dulary made fast friends with Tara, another one of the sanctuary's elephant residents—a great start to her brand new life! "Dulary has remained in the constant company of her new sisters; eating, napping, sharing affection, and exploring her new habitat," writes TES founder Carol Buckley in Dulary's Diary. "Her assimilation into her new life has been remarkably instantaneous."
IDA is proud to have played a role in freeing Dulary from the stultifying confinement of her zoo enclosure. Change is happening for elephants around the country, and together we are making a big difference! Thank you to everyone who called, wrote, signed petitions, and demonstrated on Dulary's behalf, especially Friends of Philly Zoo Elephants.
Dulary was born in Asia in 1963. She was culled from the wild and taken from her family when just a baby. Since 1964, she has lived in the same quarter-acre exhibit at the Philadelphia Zoo, a world away from her native homeland.
Both Bette and Kallie were born in 1982 in Zimbabwe, and captured in the wild as infants. They have spent almost their entire lives in captivity, and came to the Philadelphia Zoo around April 2004. Neither Bette nor Kallie have been able to roam freely, forage for fresh grass or enjoy a natural habitat since infancy, nor will they ever be able to graze on the African plains with their mothers, aunts and sisters.
Petal was born in 1955 in Africa. Caught in the wild, Petal was brought to the Philadelphia Zoo in 1957. Along with the other elephants at the Philadelphia Zoo, zoo handlers "manage" Petal using the outdated form of elephant management known as "free contact," which relies on bullhooks and chains to keep pachyderms in line. Petal died in 2008 after collapsing in her barn stall.
Help for Bette and Kallie?
Grassroots activists in Philadelphia have been coordinating regular outreach events and gathering signatures from zoo patrons urging the Philadelphia Zoo to scrap its plans for an expensive but still exceedingly small elephant exhibit.
What You Can Do
Philadelphia residents, contact the Philadelphia City Council to urge them to take action to get surviving elephants Kallie and Bette sent to the PAWS sanctuary in California. Visit Friends of Philly Zoo Elephants' website for more information.