Photo: Martyn Stewart
Where should elephants live? Yes, the correct answer is either in Africa or in Asia. But there they are killed for their ivory. And in larger numbers than ever. So would it not be better for them to live in zoos that keep them safe, in an enriched environment, with enough space to walk, sleep, eat, raise their offspring, and, even though confined to a much smaller area, simply live? This discussion has been going on in animal welfare groups for a long time. Advocates of zoos will tell you how much better life is for an animal in a well protected environment and that zoos will save the elephants from extinction. The opposition will argue that any kind of imprisonment, and that is how a zoo is seen, is worse than freedom. If you think you can compare humans to elephants ask prison inmates what they believe and you will always get the answer from most of them that living outside of a prison, no matter how poorly, fares better than being locked up.
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Here is a situation where the safety of the elephants certainly was not guaranteed:
“Watoto, the sole African elephant at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, was euthanized on August 22, 2014. The zoo apparently doesn’t monitor the elephants overnight, and zookeepers had arrived to work to find Watoto on the ground. After being unable to lift her with straps and heavy equipment, they euthanized her. An elephant’s natural life span is similar to that of a human’s, and Watoto was only 45 years old. This is the second elephant death in seven years at Woodland Park Zoo. The first was the death of 7-year-old Hansa, resulting from the stress-related elephant herpes virus and, like Watoto’s death, inadequate monitoring. Even though numerous zoos have closed their elephant exhibits and despite the inherent cruelty of captivity, Woodland Park Zoo continues to defend its decision to keep its exhibit open. In fact, it announced a seriously misguided five-year plan earlier this spring that would involve spending about $3 million to modify the facility and add more elephants.”
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