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Zoos Called It a 'Rescue.' But Are the Elephants Really Better Off?
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=51212"><span class="small">Charles Siebert, The New York Times</span></a>   
Monday, 22 July 2019 08:26

Siebert writes: "Despite mounting evidence that elephants find captivity torturous, some American zoos still acquire them from Africa - aided by a tall tale about why they needed to leave home."

One of the Swazi elephants and a caretaker at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha. (photo: Robin Schwartz/NYT)
One of the Swazi elephants and a caretaker at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha. (photo: Robin Schwartz/NYT)


Zoos Called It a 'Rescue.' But Are the Elephants Really Better Off?

By Charles Siebert, The New York Times

22 July 19


Despite mounting evidence that elephants find captivity torturous, some American zoos still acquire them from Africa — aided by a tall tale about why they needed to leave home.

he “Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley” enclosure at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan., is a dreamscape idyll of an elephant’s natural home: five and a half sprawling acres of tree-dotted mock savanna and a 550,000-gallon pond where boated people and wading pachyderms can nearly meet on opposite sides of a discreetly submerged barrier. All eight of the zoo’s elephants were visible when I visited on Memorial Day 2018, two years after the habitat’s grand opening, including six recent arrivals from the tiny southern African kingdom eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), the lot of them moving about with the same slow, tensile synchrony of larger wild elephant herds. Only the background flicker of cars on Interstate 235 disrupted the tableau, as well as my own occasional thoughts of far less accommodated zoo and circus elephant captives over the years, right back to the very first elephant brought to the United States.

According to historical records, it was in the early spring of 1796 that the America, a sailing vessel captained by Jacob Crowninshield, arrived in New York Harbor from Calcutta. As emphatically noted in the ship’s log kept by one of its officers, Nathaniel Hathorne (whose author son would soon add the “w” to the family name), there was an “ELEPHANT ON BOARD.” A 2-year-old female originally purchased by Crowninshield in Bengal for the bargain price of $450, she was immediately sold in New York for $10,000. It being nearly eight decades shy of the opening of the country’s first zoo, she would go on to spend the rest of her days on circuslike exhibition tours up and down the Eastern Seaboard (including a guest appearance at Harvard University’s 1797 commencement exercises), developing along the way a prodigious 30-bottle-a-day dark-beer habit, bottles that she learned to open with her own trunk. No one is sure what exactly became of the “Crowninshield Elephant.” But two centuries after her last recorded appearance — in York, Pa., in 1818 — the Sedgwick County Zoo’s “Zambezi River Valley” habitat seemed like something that pachyderm pioneer might have conjured in one of her wildest booze-stoked dreams.

From a viewing perch on the enclosure’s edge, I followed along a winding path, eventually arriving at an odd walk-through display: a large white metal travel crate with side air slats, its doors flung open at either end. Inside, a series of wood-framed, poster-size plaques related a compelling story of how and why — at a time when a recent census found that the population of African elephants had declined 30 percent in seven years, to a total of about 350,000 — the Sedgwick County Zoo, the Dallas Zoo and the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha were able to import 17 African elephants in March 2016 from what was then still Swaziland.

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0 # Rcomm 2019-07-25 08:43
We need to do whatever is necessary to protect and save elephants.
But we must not cage them in zoos. I've seen a rescue facility in Thailand where they roam free and feel it's the only way to keep them. Not only are they able to roam but seem more content and act more naturally.
This may not be cheap but the alternative is not acceptable.