Zoos

The plight of Shankar in Delhi Zoo, the lone African elephant from Zimbabwe, continues to baffle and amaze wildlife lovers and animal welfare/rights activists nationally and internationally. Three years after highlighting his plight here on ElephantVoices, Shankar is still chained, still beaten and has no company of his own species. The best option is for the Indian government to send Shankar away to a wildlife refuge in Africa, in Kenya preferably where he can live among his own kind. To achieve that there has to be a way to overcome the halo surrounding his status as a diplomatic gift.

Shankar's plight illustrates the sordid state of African Elephants in captivity in India, with the two animals in deplorable conditions in Mysore Zoo as other grim examples, says Shubhobroto Ghosh, author of The Indian Zoo Inquiry(1.14 MB). In this synopsis (1.36 MB) Ghosh describes the fortunes of African elephants in Indian Zoos and in particular a pair from Zimbabwe that were given in 1998 as a diplomatic gift to the Indian President. We urge all friends of Zimbabwe to do what they can to convince the Government that what they are doing is of disservice also for their tourism industry and their own people.

In the synopsis Ghosh strongly urges range states to leave free-ranging African and Asian elephants strictly where they belong - in the wild. In late 2009 India took the enlightened step of banning elephant from zoos - applauded from around the world.

Zoo elephants shunned of basic needs

Dr. Sunil Srivastava, a veterinary doctor with 25 years experience and Delhi representative of international animal rights organisation Animal Equality says, “In the wild animals have their roles and jobs to fulfill. The natural behaviour exercised by them provides the required physical and mental stimulation. But zoo elephants are shunned of their basic needs and Shankar is no exception to this. During my early days when I volunteered with the Delhi zoo, I noticed deep bruises on the ankles of elephants, a result of their struggle to get out of the chains. One of the Delhi zoo keepers agrees that elephants are chained during the period of musth.

Joyce returned on 29 August from a hectic trip to Chicago where she presented her icon Testimony to Chicago City Council about elephants in Chicaco Zoo. (90.9 kB) regarding the proposed Elephant Protection Ordinance to Chicago City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation.

The ordinance, which proposes substantial increase in the space requirement for displaying captive elephants, would effectively make it almost impossible for zoos and circuses to comply in urban Chicago. There was wide coverage in the media including several TV channels and newspapers.

Joyce concluded that zoos would have to revolutionize their elephant exhibits in order to meet the interests and well being of elephants. Due to the size requirements this would probably mean that only a few "zoos" would be able to display elephants. If people want to see these magnificent animals, they would have to make a special effort, just as a huge number of Americans do to today to visit Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon or other natural wonders.

Some media reports suggested that Joyce stated that zoos have no educational value. This is not the case, but Joyce did say that children can learn more about elephants through television documentaries than by watching elephants in a small enclosure engaged in very little natural behavior. She also said that with modern technology surely we could create a wild elephant-based virtual reality exhibition - rather than subjecting intelligent animals to a life of misery.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Petter departs for Kenya and Amboseli for a two-week visit on 23rd August, mainly to work with the ongoing project, “Mitigating human-elephant conflict in the Amboseli Ecosystem

The ElephantVoices team visited both the National Zoo in Washington, DC and the Oakland Zoo, outside San Francisco, in the beginning of January 2006. While the National Zoo has a long way to go before they can offer decent conditions for their elephants, the Oakland Zoo has been able to offer significantly more space and enrichment activities that has led to a much more satisfying situation. Protected contact (physical barriers between the elephants and keepers) furthermore means a relaxed and respectful atmosphere, without intrusive activities for negative re-enforcement and risk- and stress-factors so often related to “Free Contact

A US Department of Agriculture (USDA) petition focusing on the physical and mental health consequences of lack of space for captive elephants has recently been filed by In Defense of Animals (IDA). ElephantVoices’ Joyce Poole, as one of the experts, provided a icon declaration (Citizen petition) (115.33 kB) about this vital issue for captive elephants.

An estimated half of all captive elephants suffer from arthritis and foot disease, and these ailments are the leading cause of euthanasia in captive elephants. The focus on space has led to an outcry by the zoo industry that continues to express that elephants are doing fine in tiny enclosures allotted to them, despite a wealth of empirical evidence to the contrary. It is difficult to understand why zoos continue to repeat this mantra, since most zoo elephants are, de facto, suffering from substantial mental and physical health problems as a consequence. You may want to visit our FAQ about some of these issues.

On 25 January, Toni, a 40-year-old Asian elephant at the National Zoo was euthanized. The ElephantVoices team visited Toni in Washington DC 3 weeks before, and witnessed an elephant in very poor condition. (See previous news update, and icon Poole, J. 2006. ElephantVoices statement regarding Toni at the National Zoo, Washington DC. (374.34 kB) Toni was a grim example of what a life in captivity can lead to. Toni had experienced and well-meaning people around her, but her “home

It's been rather quiet from us for some time, though not caused by a lack of activities or events. After a fantastic Norwegian summer and a lot of traveling from late August until a few days ago, we are now nailed down to our office chairs working on different important documents.

The main focus over the next couple of months will be work related to finalizing chapters for the upcoming book The Amboseli Elephants, A long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal. This book will present the findings accumulated over more than 30 years of research on the Amboseli elephant population. We hope that it will be available in late 2007 (University of Chicago Press). During a ten day visit to Amboseli with other ATE colleagues in August/September most of Joyce's time was allocated to the preparation of this book.

In addition to the book completion, elephant advocacy and welfare work continue to be high on the agenda. In mid September Joyce went to the US, where among other meetings she visited the Elephant Sanctuary in Nashville, Tennessee. In December 2005 she visited PAWS/Ark2000 in San Andreas, California. Both sanctuaries represent a safe haven for retired, rescued and/or abused elephants, and even though no-one can replicate a life in the wild these sanctuaries represent a great alternative for many of Americas circus and zoo elephants.


Above left: Joyce meets elephants at the Elephant Sanctuary. Middle: Carol Buckley, Elephant Sanctuary Director, Joyce and Deb Forthman. Right: Joyce and one of PAWS' eight elephants study one another, with PAWS director Pat Derby standing by.

Joyce and Petter will be in Amboseli for a four-week field trip in December/January, mainly recording and shooting photo/video for our communication study.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Hi all,

There has been a lot of activity on this blog over the last few days and some of it has centered around elephants in zoos. People who love elephants have strong feelings on this topic, some for and some against zoos. There is a lot of rhetoric on both sides and much of it is not supported by the facts. We chose our name, ElephantVoices, for two reasons - because we study the voices of elephants and because we aim to be a voice for the interests of elephants. After spending many, many years observing elephants in the wild, I think that we have a better idea than most about what elephants enjoy doing - if they are free to pursue their own activities.

In our view, the traditional zoo cannot meet the interests of elephants for reasons that we have laid out in an essay we wrote entitled, icon Mind and Movement: Meeting the Interests of Elephants (2.19 MB). The point to remember is that we are not keeping elephants in zoos to meet their individual or collective needs, but our own. When it comes to elephants, it cannot be argued that we are breeding them in captivity as an insurance policy against extinction - since it is much more effective biologically, reproductively and economically to ensure their survival in the wild. And it is certainly better for them as individuals to live wild rather than captive lives.

We keep elephants in zoos to meet our need to see them. It may also be fair to argue that we keep them there to act as ambassadors for elephants in the wild, though based on my experience, websites and TV documentaries offer significantly more real education than do the signs at the elephant enclosures at zoos. Often the elephants we see in zoos are poor, bewildered and broken down creatures with behavior far from what we consider real elephant behavior.

So the question for us really is this: What level of individual elephant sacrifice, if you will, is OK so that we can have the pleasure of their presence in our zoos? My feeling is that we should offer elephants close to what they have in the wild - in terms of physical, mental and social stimulation. The truth is that we are far from this. There is a push to make bigger yards for elephants, but in our view these fall square kilometers (or miles) short of what is OK. The $40-60 million dollars price tag would be better spent on an advanced multi-media theatre with a webcam connected directly to a field study supported by the zoo, where a field worker frequently is on hand to introduce us to individual elephants and explain their complex lives to us. Such an elephant reality show would be true education and entertainment for people and conservation for elephants wrapped into one. The running costs would be minimal compared to what it costs to house one or a few elephants.

We'd like to add that we do not want to belittle the efforts of those trying to make a difference for individual elephants in captivity, whether they are paid or volunteers. But with the interest of elephants at heart we deeply believe that a traditional zoo cannot offer them what they deserve and need.

Trumpets, Joyce and Petter

The  Science  and Well-Being of Elephants in CaptivitySeveral have asked us where they can get a copy of the book An Elephant In The Room: The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity. You can actually get the book from Amazon.com - buy it here.

The opening chapter in the book, Mind and Movement: Meeting the interests of elephants, is written by ElephantVoices’ Joyce Poole and Petter Granli.

You may read and/or download the chapter through this link:
icon Poole, J & Granli, P. 2008. Mind and Movement: Meeting the Interests of Elephants. (2.19 MB) (Cover photos by Petter Granli, ElephantVoices.)

Many of you may have read about the lawsuit PETA and Zoocheck Canada recently have filed against the Valley Zoo in Edmonton, Canada. Living alone in such a cold climate, Lucy has spent much of her life standing on concrete. The result? A young elephant in an old body. As an expert witness, my view is that Lucy has been and continues to be deprived and is suffering. My hope is that the Valley Zoo will release Lucy to live in a better home where she will have what elephants need: companions, a warm climate and space to roam.

A headline in CBC News goes like this; "PETA sues Edmonton over elephant", and in THE CANADIAN PRESS you can read; "Edmonton, animal rights groups will fight in court over elephant's future".

You can in a couple of previous posts on ElephantVoices, from July and September 2009, read more about Lucy, her story and situation.

Every day we receive messages about how captive elephants are being mistreated, often accompanied by disturbing photographs or video footage. It can be tough spending hours, weeks and months looking at the brutality and abuse inflicted on defenceless animals who cannot speak for themselves.

We are a small team so we are not able to take on individual battles for each and every elephant. But there are particular cases when we feel compelled to make our opinions known and Lucky, and now Queenie, in the San Antonio Zoo are two examples. Lucky has been languishing alone in the San Antonio Zoo and welfare advocates have been arguing that she should be sent to a sanctuary due to her poor accomodation and her lack of companionship. When Queenie was rescued from an abusive life in the circus everyone expected her to go to one of the two sanctuaries, which are ideally set up to provide a home for elephants who have been mistreated. Indeed negotiations with PAWS were well underway.

In what we consider a dirty trick, however, the San Antonio Zoo managed to get hold of Queenie using the argument that Lucky needed a companion. A spineless USDA supported that argument saying that the San Antonio Zoo is accredited. We believe that this maneuver is part of an ongoing attempt by the AZA to block the sanctuaries from receiving elephants - so they don't lose face. We certainly don't disagree that Lucky should have companionship, but feel strongly that both Queenie AND Lucky should retire to a sanctuary, before it is too late. What the San Antonio Zoo is offering them is just not good enough. The USDA using the accreditation line when the Zoo is so poor, is just pathetic.

We have written letters to USDA and decision makers in Washington and San Antonio, and have made phone calls to some relevant offices. We are happy knowing that many good people and organizations are doing their part - and we continue to strategize together with some about how to move forward.

The swaying of confined elephants like Lucky shown in the video below is extremely disturbing - because it is so symptomatic of a life of social and physical deprivation. With nowhere to go and no one to see, no new smells to investigate and nothing to strive for elephants become bored and frustrated. The result? They stand in one place rocking, back and forth slowly losing their minds. Well, wouldn't we do the same given similar circumstances?

Why do we humans feel such a need to confine and control other animals? Is our pleasure in seeing them captive worth the cruelty that we inflict on them? Elephants are intelligent socially complex individuals who have the same basic needs that we have: Freedom and autonomy, companionship and affection, just to name a few.

I often try to put myself in the elephants' shoes, so to speak. Ever had to stand waiting for that bus or train that never comes? Feet and back aching? I, too, start to step from one foot to the other. I, too, rock back and forth, I sway. But I don't wait for transport for weeks, for months, for years. I have the freedom to choose to go. We need to wake up to the reality of what we are doing to other creatures and stop hiding behind a lot of constructed arguments for keeping elephants in this way. In our enlightened society elephants should not have to live like this any longer - Queenie and Lucky, and other elephants in their circumstance should go to a sanctuary where they have space to roam in the company of other elephants.

On 12th May Joyce Poole was interviewed on Talking Animals.

She discusses elephant behavior and communication, and our responsibility for their well being.

She also touches on the fate of Boo (alias Queenie) and Lucky in the San Antonio Zoo.

You can listen to the interview via the below media player.

Joyce on Talking Animals {audio}Talking_Animals_Audio_Archive_Joyce_Poole.mp3{/audio}

On May 28th we were asked to talk to WFAA TV in Texas about the stereotypic behavior of Jenny, an elephant at the Dallas Zoo and, since we have written about icon her before (159.39 kB), we agreed.

In the course of the interview, part of which was aired the same day on WFAA TV, Joyce, mentioned being surprised by the Zoo's use of the expression "let elephants be elephants" in the context of their new 5-6 acre elephant exhibit. And that is where the controversy erupted.
This phrase is one that Joyce has used for years to refer to the kind of space elephants need to keep from becoming bored and frustrated in captivity: Space that allows elephants to form families and raise their young;
- to separate for hours and then use their sense of smell and long distance hearing to find one another again;
- space that allows elephants to forage, to browse and to graze, naturally;
- space that allows females to socialize with males, now and again;
- space that keeps them fully engaged.

(See Mind and Movement: Meeting the Interests of Elephants.)

So, when the Dallas Zoo co-opted this phrase for a 5-6 acre exhibit that will hold six elephants and doesn't have any natural vegetation, it seemed, to us, a misuse of "our" term. If the Dallas Zoo actually believes that this space will allow elephant to be elephants, then we respectfully suggest that they spend more time learning about the lives of wild elephants. We simply do not agree and felt it necessary to say so.

We understand that this is all about marketing - but AZA institutions are in the habit of providing the public with misinformation about elephants; zoos need to use sounder science and be more careful with their statements.

While we are disappointed that no zoo so far has used the multi-millions of dollars raised for an elephant exhibits that really would allow elephants to really be elephants, we are always happy to see conditions improved for individuals. And the new exhibit is certainly a great improvement for Jenny - and the other elephants who will share the space with her.

We continue to challenge the AZA to create landscapes rather than "exhibits" that will give elephants the real freedom to live their lives as elephants. It can be done.

In late January this year, Junia Machado, a Brazilian from Sao Paulo, wrote to us to ask for some help in assessing the situation for Teresita, an African elephant is living alone in the Sao Paulo Zoo. She also wanted to know how she could contribute towards the goals of ElephantVoices.

Since then we have started to collaborate with her on some welfare issues related to captive elephants in Brazil (there are 23 - 15 Asian and 8 African), which we will come back to in the near future.

A couple of days ago Junia sent us a link to an excellent article in a Sao Paulo newspaper - a journalist and grandfather's reflections after a zoo visit. You will find the original version of journalist Nelson Motta's article in Portugese here, and an English version translated through Google here. It is worth reading!

By banning all animals from circuses Bolivia has shown the way forward. There are other positive things happening in regard to animal welfare in other countries in Latin America, too. ElephantVoices intends to try to follow the situation in Brazil, inspired by the dedication of Junia Machado. Junia has volunteered to work with us to find out more about the situation for elephants in the country and to promote positive change.

Junia has recently spent quite a lot of time with the 26-year-old elephant, Teresita, who lives alone in the São Paulo Zoo. With our input Junia is collecting data to describe how this lonely female African elephant spend her time. This "activity budget" will give insight into how Teresita is coping in an appalling situation, and what the zoo is doing or not doing to alleviate her suffering. Junia is collecting information on Teresita's activities every minute on-the-minute which will basically summarize how Teresita spends her time. Our hope is that Junia's data, combined with solid science available on ElephantVoices.org, will provide the facts and arguments that are needed to convince legislators and others with power that radical change is required to improve Teresita's existence. We will be sharing Junia's findings with you and will follow up with the reaction of the zoo. The photographs below taken by Junia already tell a lot about her sad living conditions.

In April 2000, the attention of Brazil's lawmakers was brought to the issue of animals in circuses when a six-year-old boy was killed by a lion in the Vostok circus. At that time the lack of security was the main focus. Eight years later, national news reported a new case, this time referring to accusations of cruelty. In August 2008, the Brazilian Environment Agency (IBAMA) confiscated animals from "Le Cirque," accusing the circus of inappropriate space and inhumane treatment. A law banning animals from circuses was proposed as early as 2006, and three states, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco, and more than 20 cities in other states, have already implemented such bans. Since 2010 is an election year in Brazil it is quite difficult to know what will happen, but we sincerely hope we will see some progress after the general election in the beginning of October and Junia is in any case following up.

Junia's interest in elephants was triggered by a book, Marvelous and Mysteries of Animal World, published in 1966. Do read Junia's own words about her interest and love for elephants - and how she became so committed to helping Teresita. You will hear more from Junia and about elephants in Brazil during the months to come - and hopefully some good news about legislation and improved elephant welfare. There are currently 23 elephants in Brazilian zoos (519.25 kB) - we continue to look into how many circus elephants there are.

Teresita reaching through a hole in the cement wall to search for food. (©Junia Machado)



Teresita has several strange calluses on her head, most likely caused by having to press her head against the cement wall to stretch her trunk through the hole in the wall to try to attain out of reach food. (©Junia Machado)

From this location Teresita might be able to see some near by activity. (©Junia Machado)

Another grey and boring day for a sad Teresita; nothing
to do and no friends. (©Junia Machado)

Joyce Poole and Petter Granli of ElephantVoices' visited Barcelona from 9-11 June to assess the situation for elephants, Susi and Yoyo, in Barcelona Zoo. The visit was based on an initative by the organisations Libera and Faada, and with the input and inspiration of several others who are interested in the plight of these two elephants.

We had two constructive meetings with Barcelona Zoo Director, Miquel Trepat, and two of his colleagues, and in an open letter (171.79 kB) we have given the zoo our feedback. It is our opinion that Susi and Yoyo's interests cannot be met in an urban zoo and we argue that, ideally, they should be moved to an elephant sanctuary. Currently, there is no such place in Europe, yet Spain has an ideal climate for such a sanctuary and we are engaged in discussion with people who hope to make this a reality. In the mean time the elephants suffer, as most zoo elephants do, but it is fair to add that the Barcelona Zoo continues to work to improve their conditions.

Our letter goes into many of the issues relevant to elephants in zoos, while also pinpointing some of the special challenges related to Susi and Yoyo and the plans of Barcelona Zoo.

The educational value of "exhibiting" elephants who, due to their captive situation, do not behave remotely like elephants, is from our perspective, extremely limited. We would argue that giving children the impression that it is OK to keep animals in conditions far from what they need may, instead, create attitudes that may stimulate abuse rather than the opposite. While the Barcelona Zoo states that they are known for their education program, the information sign by the elephant enclosure speaks for itself.

Our visit and views were covered by the media as a result of a press conference and other interviews arranged by Libera! and FAADA during our stay. You will find some media links below, others will be included when the articles are published. At the bottom of the page you will find ElephantVoices video clips with Susi and Yoyo.

TVE a la CARTA (17.12 into the program)

L'elefanta Yoyo compleix un any separada de Susi al Zoo de Barcelona
(English version of above article, translated via Google translate)

La Yoyo i la Susi continuen separades
(English version of above article, translated via Google translate)


News coverage on www.btvnoticies.cat 10 June.


Susi has been in the Barcelona Zoo since 2002, while her current neighbour, Yoyo, arrived 6th June 2009.
We do not believe that an urban zoo is able to provide
what Susi and Yoyo need to be able to thrive. (©ElephantVoices)


From left to right: Jenny Berengueras (FAADA), Petter Granli (ElephantVoices), Vera Weber (Fondation Franz Weber), Joyce Poole (ElephantVoices), Laura Riera (FAADA), Alejandra García (Libera!) and Daniel Turner (Born Free) visiting Barcelona Zoo in June 2010.
Susi to the right. (©ElephantVoices)


Yoyo. (©ElephantVoices)

 


Information sign by
Barcelona Zoo elephant enclosure.

 

Susi and Yoyo 9 June 2010. Footage ElephantVoices.

Zimbabwe is probably responsible for more African elephants suffering in zoos and circuses around the world than any other single country. The American Zoological Association elephant “studbook

On July 1st 2010 at the Toledo Zoo a seven-year-old juvenile male elephant, named Louie, attacked his keeper, Mr. Don RedFox. ElephantVoices´ Dr. Joyce Poole has written an open letter (106 kB) to Toledo Zoo CEO, Dr. Anne Baker, regarding this unfortunate incident, shown below. We send our condolences to Mr. RedFox and his family and hope for his full recovery.

It is ElephantVoices' opinion that what took place was a direct consequence of keeping elephants confined and under strict control. In doing so zoos compromise the real interests of these intelligent individuals. In the name of entertainment, education and conservation, Louie is incarcerated for the rest of his life, subjected to the whims and fancies of people, and deprived of space to roam, companions to meet, and things to explore. This is a tall order for inquisitive, emotional and social individuals like Louie and his kin.

It is, furthermore, our perspective that the various statements and reactions from the zoo community are a public relations exercise rather than a real effort to explain, truthfully and accurately, what took place in Louie's small stall. Based on decades-long experience, our viewpoint is that Louie was not behaving in a playful manner toward Mr. RedFox and neither was he exhibiting sparring behavior. Rather, the video shows Louie acting with intention to harm. That he was doing so is yet another reason for us to urge the zoo community to rethink the keeping of elephants captive.

Joyce Poole & Petter Granli

Dear Dr. Baker,

I am writing to you regarding the unfortunate incident in which the seven-year-old juvenile male elephant, Louie, attacked Mr. Don RedFox. I wish to send my condolences to Mr. RedFox and his family. I hope that he is able to make a full recovery. I also wish to make a statement regarding the incident.

I have decades of experience studying the behavior and communication of wild African elephants and working for their conservation and welfare. Both my PhD research at Cambridge University and my post-doctoral research at Princeton University in the 1980s focused on aggressive behavior and signaling and assessment by male elephants. Since then I have documented the entire repertoire of African elephant postures and gestures, published in an online database on www.elephantvoices.org.

I have heard the viewpoints and read statements by zoo officials and zoo experts regarding the incident and I have had the possibility to view the video that was posted on the Toledo Blade website (http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100721/NEWS16/100729906).

Zoo officials and experts have suggested that Louie was "startled" and they have likened Louie's behavior to that of the roughhousing or "sparring" behavior observed between wild male elephants. As an expert on elephant behavior, I must disagree; Louie's behavior on the video shows a combination of apprehensive, submissive and aggressive behavior. Louie is not playful and neither is he sparring; Louie is interacting with Mr. RedFox with intent to harm.

I understand that public relations are a very important aspect of zoo communication. It is difficult to say whether the experts and officials speaking on behalf of the Toledo Zoo have misrepresented the situation on purpose, or whether they are lacking relevant expertise. It is important, however, that the public be given opposing viewpoints by other experts and that they be given the tools with which to make their own judgment about what happened. For this reason, I use specific terms to describe the aggressive and submissive elephant behavior that I observed in the video.

I include a link to our website where members of the public may search for these words on our elephant behavior database and view images and a description of the behavior (see aggressive postures at http://www.elephantvoices.org/multimedia-resources/elephantvoices-gestures-database.html?catid=3). This is what I observe and conclude:

Mr. RedFox approaches Louie. We are told that he carries carrots though it is not possible to identify what he has in his hands. Since elephants have an extraordinary ability to detect vibrations through the soles of their feet (they can pick up the footfalls of running zebras from over a mile away), Louie would have known that Mr. RedFox was approaching even if he had not heard him. In other words, it is unlikely that Louie was startled, as zoo experts have suggested. As soon as Louie turns to face Mr. RedFox his head is held high, his ears are spread and his trunk is curled under in a threatening posture (see the above online descriptions of aggressive behaviors - Standing-Tall, Head-High, Ear-Spreading; African elephants curl their trunks under in this way in two different situations - when they are apprehensive [see Trunk-Curved-Under] and when they are preparing to attack [see Ramming]). Then he steps toward Mr. RedFox and gives a slight Head-Nod in a further challenge to his trainer. Mr. RedFox responds by stepping back, and then continues to approach Louie. Louie backs and turns away (Turn-Away) from Mr. RedFox in a submissive posture, but then turns around to face Mr. RedFox again and lunges at him in a highly aggressive manner. He appears to make contact with Mr. RedFox and pushes him out of the stall (Pushing).

Mr. RedFox goes away and then reenters the stall with a bullhook. Louie first challenges him, but then Turns-Away away in a submissive manner. As Mr. RedFox approaches him with the bullhook, Louie appears to anticipate being hurt and he tries to tuck his back legs out of harms way (as seen on our database in an image under Tusking). Mr. RedFox uses the bullhook not to "touch" Louie, as zoo authorities have stated, but to "hook" him, and pull him around. Louie turns and immediately lunges at Mr. RedFox and pushes him into the corner and appears to bend down as if to tusk him (Ramming). Louie backs up, crouches down and then lunges forward bending down, Tusking and Ramming Mr. RedFox again. In the video that shows the last part of the incident from a different angle, Louie can be seen Ear-Folding, also a sign of aggression.

This is NOT the way that male elephants in the wild behave toward one another when they are Sparring. Rather, the incident has elements of how male elephants behave in an Escalated-Contest or when they are engaged in a Duel, when they attempt to kill one another, and it is similar to how a wild elephant behaves if he or she is trying to defend himself or herself against a human predator. This is certainly not play behavior (search under "Play" on the database to compare) and Louie shows no signs in this video of friendly behavior toward Mr. RedFox. Since the zoo uses free contact to control Louie, he has had years of experience at the end of a bullhook. My interpretation based on his behavior is that Louie is retaliating against a perceived threat.

Joyce H. Poole, PhD
Co-Director, ElephantVoices


 

The review team assessing the attack by Toledo Zoo's (Ohio, US) seven year old African elephant, Louie, on his keeper July 1 does not even try to explain why this might have happened, other than to say that Mr. RedFox first entered the enclosure without a bullhook. (Toledo Zoo press release) It took this unfortunate incident to get the zoo to begin caring for Louie using protected contact.

Bullhook - often called Guide by the zoos.We hope other zoos will move away from the use of bullhooks and instead adopt protected contact which gives elephants in zoos at least some measure of autonomy and choice in their very constrained zoo lives. Read more about bullhooks in this testimony to Massachusetts legislators about the use of bullhooks on elephants. (71.9 kB)

The relationship between Mr. RedFox and Louie was not one of friendship, as the Zoo tried to argue, but one of a man trying to exert his will over that of a much larger elephant. Dominance among wild elephants is based on body size; people try to "pull rank" and to maintain control over their much larger charges by using a bullhook for backup. In our opinion that is just asking for trouble.

Elephants have incredible memories - the wiring of their brains suggest even better than our own - and they are very good at keeping score. Louie exhibited a lot of aggression toward Mr. RedFox as is documented in our letter (106 kB) sent to Toledo Zoo's Executive Director, Dr. Anne Baker. You will find an introduction to the letter, and the video showing the attack, here.

On 3rd September Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington DC is opening Elephant Trails (see video below). The zoo calls the elephants' new home "innovative" and "groundbreaking". From our perspective it shows very little understanding of the real interests and needs of elephants. Our friend and colleague, Peter Stroud, has written an Op-Ed for Washington Post, which was published today.

We have stolen the title to this page from Peter's excellent piece - "ill-fitting" describes the new Elephant Trails perfectly. It is disturbing that with $50 million of tax payers money spent on this new exhibit the Smithsonian's National Zoo was not able to do better. In memory of Toni (photo), and with all that could have been done for the National Zoo's elephants at Front Royal or at one of the elephant sanctuaries, we hoped for much more.

If we go back five and a half years:
In early January 2005 we visited National Zoo, partly to see 40-year-old, Toni, who we had been told was in very bad condition. We watched Toni for a few hours from outside her barren enclosure - it was obvious that she was in pain with severe arthritis. Afterward, we met with National Zoo Director, John Berry, hoping that we could persuade him to send Toni to an elephant sanctuary, where she would have more space and freedom. We told him straight out that we predicted that Toni would die if they didn't do something urgently to improve her situation. Berry told us that Toni was fine, and that she had looked like that for decades.

On 11th January 2005 we sent a letter to the Zoo (374.34 kB), arguing for what we believed would be the best for Toni and the Zoo; we never received an answer. On 25th January, three weeks after our visit, Toni was euthanized. Toni is a grim example of what a life in captivity leads to. Her death triggered this article in the Washington Post.

The National Zoo is calling Elephant Trails "the cornerstone of our campaign to save Asian elephants." We are dumbfounded. How is keeping a few elephants in an inadequate space in North America "saving the Asian elephant"? To state that this new enclosure is the Zoo's "cornerstone" to save Asian elephants undermines the good science and education efforts that the Smithsonian Institution is doing for elephants. And that is a pity.

We are following with substantial interest and excitement the current discussion in Toronto where, on 12th May, the Toronto Zoo Board will decide whether the city's Zoo should phase out their elephants. We're encouraged to read in a recent report that the Toronto Zoo staff are recommending that the zoo should let their three aging African elephants, Iringa, Thika and Toka, go. And, we are willing to contribute our expertise and our elephant sound recordings from our collection to Toronto Zoo if they decide to build a new elephant exhibit without elephants!

ElephantVoices will support any high-tech, interactive, science-based elephant exhibit without elephants, and for many years we have hoped that a progressive zoo will grab the opportunity of being the first one out. We're convinced that such an exhibit will educate visitors about elephants, their behavior, their complex communication, their interests and the threats to their survival in the wild in a way that is dynamic and stimulating. We also believe that most of today's zoo visitors understand why elephants should not be confined in an urban zoo, and this should be even easier for people to grasp considering Toronto's cold climate. Toronto Zoo will gain respect and increased interest by such a move, rather than the opposite.

On 6th May in Toronto's thestar.com, City Councillor and Toronto Zoo Board Member, Glenn De Baeremaeker, is quoted saying: “Overall I’m very pleased with the report". And, "It’s cold in Toronto especially in January... You have a moral responsibility to the animals you shipped into this country to take care of them. And they’re currently in a space that is grotesquely too small.

ElephantVoices is with enthusiasm and interest following the development of eZoo (see also ezoo on Facebook), a concept for the world's first techno-zoo without live animals recently presented in Barcelona. More and more zoos are facing out their elephant exhibits realising that they just cannot provide what elephants need, and alternative elephant exhibits without elephants is the future solution. We recently posted the news piece Will Toronto get the first elephant exhibit without elephants?, which is another indication of what is happening.

The concept of eZoo is developed jointly by the Franz Weber foundation and Libera, and is a revolutionary project based on the latest technological advances. It is meant to include virtual reality, animatronics, enhanced reality, mapping and 3D projections, with the aim of turning a visit into a unique educational experience. eZoo is designed to create a space in which to raise awareness about the importance of species conservation - and respect for animals, their habitats and ecosystems - with programs adapted to the different types of visitors (children, families - students at primary schools, high schools and universities), as well as being a meeting point for local, national and international scientists and other experts.

In their press release eZoo states that one of their objectives is collaboration with organisations that run field conservation programs, including financial collaboration as well as publicity generation and exchange of knowledge. Examples include grant programs for field researchers and university students who wish to carry out studies of animals in their country of origin. eZoo also intend to push forward research into global warming, and to create a website for education, research and project funding.

eZoo aim to incorporate technological advances and developments which will give life to virtual animals immersed in recreations of their natural habitats and which can be seen acting in a totally natural state. The technology will allow visitors to not only feel immersed in the habitat of every species of animal and plant, but also “live

We applaud the decision by the Toronto City Council to send Toka, Iringa and Thika to PAWS! Having observed the elephants at PAWS and seen the positive changes in individuals who have been placed there, we have no reservations in saying that this decision is the right choice for Toronto’s elephants. Joyce joined Toronto City Councillor, Michelle Berardinetti, and Linda Bronfman of Everyone Loves Elephants on NEWSTALK 1010 on 23 November to call for the zoo to support the Council's decision. Jane Goodall, too, has added her support for the move. Click on the image to read her strong words regarding captive elephants.

Regarding the threats by the AZA over accreditation, we wish to state the following:

Accreditation is important - when it is used to ensure that the welfare of animals are protected; but accreditation by the AZA and CAZA also means abiding by rules that have nothing to do with the welfare of elephants; indeed some of these can be detrimental to them. When it comes to the daily well being of elephants, PAWS’ standards far exceed those of the AZA. Indeed, the standards required for accreditation by the AZA and CAZA fall far short of what is needed to meet the well being of elephants.

The bullying tactics by the AZA machinery consists of the same old tired rhetoric heard each time a zoo considers sending an elephant to one of the sanctuaries. This noise is not about elephant welfare, but about an institution feeling threatened by the winds of change. The continuing misinformation and, we're sorry to say this, outright lies, emanating from the AZA about captive and even wild elephants, is tiresome, and does nothing to improve the welfare of the elephants in their institutions nor does it help the conservation of wild elephants.

It is time that we all work together to do what is best for the individual elephants held captive and for the continuing protection of a species that should, actually, remain in the wild.

Joyce & Petter


A few related articles:

Through Junia Machado and other good elephant friends in Brazil, ElephantVoices is working hard for the best interest of elephants in this progressive country. Our main objectives are

To create awareness about elephant conservation and the welfare needs of captive elephants in Brazil, and to secure that a sanctuary for elephants is established as soon as possible.

To get such a sanctuary in Brazil off the ground is key to discussions about getting elephants suffering in circuses and bad zoos moved to a new home. Without having a good alternative in place for abused elephants, it is difficult to get the political process regarding elephant welfare moving forward. Junia and others are currently learning as much as possible about the captive elephants in Brazil - many kept under terrible conditions. ElephantVoices believe there are 25 elephants in Brazilian zoos, and 6 in circuses or chained on rural properties, but are still working to get these figures and details related to each elephant confirmed.

Consulation with The Elephant Sanctuary (TES), Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and individuals with sanctuary experience is obviously on the agenda to be able to bring plans for a sanctuary in Brazil forward, and all efforts are based on Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles (148.66 kB), developed by ElephantVoices. During PAWS Summit for Elephants in California in March 2012 ElephantVoices also met with Elephant Haven, an initiative meant to lead to a much needed elephant sanctuary in Europe (France).

Junia Machado's interest in elephants was triggered when she was eight years old, and when she saw Teresita in São Paulo Zoo some years ago, she decided to do her best for elephants and contacted ElephantVoices. Since then she has built up a network of people volunteering time and energy for elephants. Together with co-volunteer Ana Zinger in Rio de Janeiro and Ticiana Carneiro in São Paulo she has started blogging on ElephantVoices Brasil and also launched ElephantVoices Brasil on Facebook. In addition to news related to captive elephants in Brasil, and hand-picked news from around the world, Junia and her Brazilian team post material and news from ElephantVoices.org, all translated into portuguese.


Junia and Ana have met up with Petter and Joyce in Kenya and the Maasai Mara twice, and in March 2012 they joined at PAWS Summit for Elephants hosted by Oakland Zoo. Junia and Ana are also contributing work and data to ElephantVoices' conservation initiative for the Mara elephants, Elephant Partners.

Our main collaborators in Brazil, in addition to Junia Machado and Ana Zinger, are Maria Cristina Mullins, Teca Franco, Martha Toledo, Tiago Esteves Carvalhaes, Andrea Schmidt, Mayara Barbi and Carol Toledo. There are also other volunteers supporting their efforts on specific issues, like Mario Duarte, Luciana Dallari, Ticiana Carneiro, Felicia Mendonça, Sabrina Cury, José Licciardi and Marcos Marcello. Two agronomists, Cesar Frizzo and Vanessa Rizzi, are currently checking land-related issues and possibilities in connection with a future sanctuary.

ElephantVoices Brasil is also networking with a substantial number of people working for elephants in other countries in South-America, and aims to contribute ideas and the sound science-based knowledge of ElephantVoices wherever it can be of help. Get in touch with Junia if you want to join ElephantVoices Brasil in their efforts!

The plight of Shankar in Delhi Zoo, the lone African elephant from Zimbabwe, continues to baffle and amaze wildlife lovers and animal welfare/rights activists nationally and internationally. Three years after highlighting his plight here on ElephantVoices, Shankar is still chained, still beaten and has no company of his own species. The best option is for the Indian government to send Shankar away to a wildlife refuge in Africa, in Kenya preferably where he can live among his own kind. To achieve that there has to be a way to overcome the halo surrounding his status as a diplomatic gift.

Shankar's plight illustrates the sordid state of African Elephants in captivity in India, with the two animals in deplorable conditions in Mysore Zoo as other grim examples, says Shubhobroto Ghosh, author of The Indian Zoo Inquiry(1.14 MB). In this synopsis (1.36 MB) Ghosh describes the fortunes of African elephants in Indian Zoos and in particular a pair from Zimbabwe that were given in 1998 as a diplomatic gift to the Indian President. We urge all friends of Zimbabwe to do what they can to convince the Government that what they are doing is of disservice also for their tourism industry and their own people.

In the synopsis Ghosh strongly urges range states to leave free-ranging African and Asian elephants strictly where they belong - in the wild. In late 2009 India took the enlightened step of banning elephant from zoos - applauded from around the world.

Zoo elephants shunned of basic needs

Dr. Sunil Srivastava, a veterinary doctor with 25 years experience and Delhi representative of international animal rights organisation Animal Equality says, “In the wild animals have their roles and jobs to fulfill. The natural behaviour exercised by them provides the required physical and mental stimulation. But zoo elephants are shunned of their basic needs and Shankar is no exception to this. During my early days when I volunteered with the Delhi zoo, I noticed deep bruises on the ankles of elephants, a result of their struggle to get out of the chains. One of the Delhi zoo keepers agrees that elephants are chained during the period of musth.

In June, faciliated by the Humane Society International, I was invited by the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) to attend a two day meeting of 47 Chinese Zoo Directors in Shenzhen, China. My invitation followed the bad press that China received in relation to the importation of baby elephants from Zimbabwe late last year. At least one of these babies died and another became seriously ill. Zimbabwe had earlier given assurances that it would stop the capture of baby elephants for captivity and the news of the shipment and deaths and rumour that more babies were awaiting capture and export, prompted an international outcry.

The CAGZ was eager not to be caught up in such exposure again and I was asked to give a 90 minute presentation on the topic of "The Importance of Animal Behavior in Import Decisions". The trip to China offered an excellent opportunity to also speak about another topic involving elephants and China and Petter and I decided that I should extend my stay to include Hong Kong and Beijing to talk about elephants, poaching and the ivory trade.

I arrived in Hong Kong on the afternoon 14 June and that evening gave a lecture on elephants and the ivory trade at the Royal Geographical Society and an interview with Jennifer Ngo of the South China Morning Post (click for headline). Jennifer’s article was picked up by The Daily Mail and also the New York Times and Asia News.

The following morning, 15 June, I was interviewed by freelance journalist, Kate Whitehead, and by Joyee Chan, who wrote an article for the Young Readers edition of the South China Morning Post published on 2 July.

That afternoon in a Starbucks in Kowloon was the first meeting of a loose group of people who are keen to do something to stop the trafficking of ivory through Hong Kong and into China. In the photographs below from left to right Christian Pilard (Eco-Sys Action Foundation), Joyce Lau and Victoria Chin (both Jane Goodall Institute), Alex Hofford (Conservation Photo journalist), Joyce Poole (ElephantVoices) and Iris Ho (Humane Society International). Alex took some photos while showing me a couple of ivory outlets in Hong Kong - I wasn't amused.

Celia Ho, the "Elephant Girl" arrived soon afterwards and we had a really nice meeting just the two of us, in which she presented me with an origami elephants with the words “Every Tusk Costs a Life, Don’t Buy Ivory” written on it.

The following morning, 16 June, Iris Ho and I took the train to the border and crossed into mainland China and on to the Zoo Director’s meeting in Shenzhen. I spoke to the Directors on 18 June, using the occasion to introduce the audience to elephant society and behavior, why the capture and importation of baby elephants is a very bad idea and why elephants don’t do well in captivity. You'll find my summary slide here. I also asked the Zoo Directors to educate their visitors not to buy ivory - but it is fair to say that they didn't particularly like the Every Tusk Costs a Life campaign artwork I showed them. I was forgiven, one of them said, for not knowing that the artwork spelled China in Mandarin...

On 19th I flew from Shenzhen in southern China to Beijing, where I spent the last four days of my China trip, primarily in the care of IFAW and, most particularly, Qi Zhang, or “Sabrina”. She came to meet me at my hotel that evening and took me on my only real touristic experience, which was a delicious meal at a classic Chinese restaurant, a visit to Tianamen Square and a drive through a hutong by bicycle rickshaw.

On the morning 20th I was met at my hotel by Chunmei Hu, a young Chinese student who has just graduated from Veterinary School and hopes to work in an animal rescue center. I had "met" Chunmei via email earlier in the year when the news of the death of the Zimbabwean baby elephant broke in China and made waves around the world. Chunmei and I have been corresponding since then about the plight of elephants in Chinese Zoos, and she wanted me to speak at a symposium of Zoo Watch China. She took me out to lunch prior to the gathering where I met some of her animal welfare colleagues including Prof. Ping Mang from the Academy of Chinese Culture.

Professor Mang coordinated the symposium which included several presentations on the state of elephants in Chinese Zoos as well as some of the legal problems related to the law - or lack thereof - for animal protection. The photographs and videos that were shown were completely heartbreaking. It may be a good thing that I didn’t see them before I gave my talk to the Zoo Directors. I had been given clear instructions not to mention any Chinese elephant welfare examples, to avoid embarrassing the Directors, but I don’t think I would have been able to keep silent had I seen the images first. The symposium was well attended by journalists and I gave a couple of interviews after the Symposium including with China Daily, also covered in it's US version and the Global Times.

The schedule of 21 June began at 10:00 a.m. with a meeting with the Head of the Department of Wild Animal Protection and the Head and Deputy Head of the Division of Wild Animal Conservation and Management to discuss the ivory trade. It took quite a bit of effort to achieve the meeting and I had been forewarned that this Ministry, which is home to both the CITES Managament Authority and the CAZG, is known for being very conservative on issues related to animal welfare and ivory trade. When I broached the topic of China’s involvement in the illegal ivory trade they responded with a list of arguments that can only be read as denial.

For example, I was told that since 1900 colonials killed 8 million of Africa’s elephants; that some 800 tons of ivory is being traded on the Internet by the United States and other countries masquerading as pre-ban ivory; China has very good law enforcement/regulations and, therefore, it is not China that is at fault, but her neighboring countries; rumors of the hoarding of ivory and rumors of high prices are killing the elephant, not China (i.e. it is rumor-mongering that is leading to escalated poaching not facts); and when I asked how they were going to meet CITES recommendation to reduce demand, I was told that China has good education to restrict people to purchasing just legal stock.

The meeting was useful in that I learned that to change the status quo we cannot rely on bureaucrats associated with China's CITES Management Authority. I was reminded again that CITES is an international body mandated to regulate trade in wildlife products; it is not a wildlife conservation body. These individuals are too pro trade to be able to admit that their Ministry is failing to control the ivory trade, nor to be able to see that that failure is ruining China’s reputation in the eyes of the world.

The meeting was followed by four interviews all organized by IFAW China - the first with CCTV, followed by a radio interview with China Radio International, then another with China Daily and, finally, an unusual and interesting interview with an engaging journalist, Gao Wenxing, of the China Philanthropy Times, which falls under the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

In the meantime, on the same day, far away in the Philippines, the crushing of a five-ton ivory stockpile was underway. This event was covered by the New York Times, which made mention of my trip.

On my last day in Beijing, 22 June, I gave a final lecture which was held in the Auditorium of the National Academy of Sciences. The event was organized by IFAW and their team coordinated by Sabrina did a fantastic job. Imagine my surprise when we pulled up to the Academy of Sciences and there, attached securely to the side of the building, was the most enormous banner announcing the lecture with pictures of elephants and me:-).

As I was speaking to the interpreter in a side room, the air suddenly began to vibrate with the sound of “Ele-Beats”. Sabrina had found it on our website and downloaded it for people to listen to as they registered. There was no need to check the sound system – the woofers were certainly fit for low frequency elephant rumbles! When I walked into the 300-seat auditorium I had my next surprise. The screen was enormous – stretching the entire width of the room and Sabrina and the IFAW team had put together a slide show of elephants and the history of Joyce. I was astonished!

As “Ele-Beats” played on and on (and on!), the auditorium gradually filled up with parents and small children, primary school and secondary school students, teachers, scientists, professors, members of the press and Li Bingbing’s assistant, Eline, whom I had been looking forward to meeting. And then it was time to speak to this vibrant crowd.

Grace Gabriel had organized a panel discussion afterwards and time for Q&A. So when I had finished speaking Grace, Jie Yu of the Nature Conservancy (who co-sponsored the talk with IFAW) and CCTV Host, Yue Zhang, (introduced to me as "China’s Oprah Winfrey" as I was to soon understood why!), joined me on stage. Yue Zhang spoke passionately about elephants and other animals and did a fantastic job of leading the questions and keeping the discussion lively. That hour-long Q&A was my next China surprise. I was blown-away by the caliber of questions from the audience – from both young and old, layman and professional. I have given many talks, but this was the most intelligent and compassionate audience I have ever had the pleasure to engage with.

So what did I learn and ElephantVoices achieve? And what can YOU do? I went to China not knowing what to expect. I, admittedly, went in despair over the elephant poaching horror and China's key role in it confirmed by facts and figures of ivory shipments from well reputed sources. The sad situation simply cannot be denied, even though many government officials are trying to do so. I am more convinced than ever before that ALL trade must be banned, to send the clear signals so much needed.

It is obviously impossible to know if my lectures, meetings and the many headlines that have followed have made any impression on those in power. However, having met so many outward and forward looking, curious people who care deeply about the world they inhabit, I have come away with more optimism.

We all know that the effort to educate people about the connection between the purchase of ivory and the killing of elephants needs to be widespread and massive. And we urgently need the Chinese government to be loud and clear in communicating that it is shameful and embarrassing for China to be seen by the global community as responsible for the buying of body parts that, accumulated, leaves tens of thousands of elephants dead in Africa every year. As a colossal investor in Africa, China has a lot to lose if the death and destruction continues. We can only dare to hope that those behind China's new "soft power" approach will take the lead in turning the fate of elephants around. We will all lose part of our pride, and our soul, if the killing of elephants doesn't stop.

You can be part of the tsunami needed to create change - to save elephants. You may not be able to inspire more diplomatic approaches, but you can write on Facebook, get a friend to post on Weibo, contact your politician, talk to a journalist - and participate in upcoming marches and other arrangements focusing on the ivory trade and what urgently should be done. In any way you can, try to ensure that the message is shared in a medium that can reach someone in China. Please include information that people should know about in that regard in the comment field below this blog post. Your suggestions and thoughts are welcome!

I'd like to send a warm Thank You to all my new friends in Hong Kong and mainland China - the hospitality and kind and efficient efforts by so many made a huge difference to my busy program. A special thank you to Jacqueline and William Furniss for hosting me in Hong Kong, and to the Humane Society International and International Fund for Animal Welfare for inspiration and support.

Trumpets,
Joyce signature.

We applaud the decision by the Toronto City Council to send Toka, Iringa and Thika to PAWS! Having observed the elephants at PAWS and seen the positive changes in individuals who have been placed there, we have no reservations in saying that this decision is the right choice for Toronto’s elephants. Joyce joined Toronto City Councillor, Michelle Berardinetti, and Linda Bronfman of Everyone Loves Elephants on NEWSTALK 1010 on 23 November to call for the zoo to support the Council's decision. Jane Goodall, too, has added her support for the move. Click on the image to read her strong words regarding captive elephants.

Regarding the threats by the AZA over accreditation, we wish to state the following:

Accreditation is important - when it is used to ensure that the welfare of animals are protected; but accreditation by the AZA and CAZA also means abiding by rules that have nothing to do with the welfare of elephants; indeed some of these can be detrimental to them. When it comes to the daily well being of elephants, PAWS’ standards far exceed those of the AZA. Indeed, the standards required for accreditation by the AZA and CAZA fall far short of what is needed to meet the well being of elephants.

The bullying tactics by the AZA machinery consists of the same old tired rhetoric heard each time a zoo considers sending an elephant to one of the sanctuaries. This noise is not about elephant welfare, but about an institution feeling threatened by the winds of change. The continuing misinformation and, we're sorry to say this, outright lies, emanating from the AZA about captive and even wild elephants, is tiresome, and does nothing to improve the welfare of the elephants in their institutions nor does it help the conservation of wild elephants.

It is time that we all work together to do what is best for the individual elephants held captive and for the continuing protection of a species that should, actually, remain in the wild.

Joyce & Petter


A few related articles:

ElephantVoices is with enthusiasm and interest following the development of eZoo (see also ezoo on Facebook), a concept for the world's first techno-zoo without live animals recently presented in Barcelona. More and more zoos are facing out their elephant exhibits realising that they just cannot provide what elephants need, and alternative elephant exhibits without elephants is the future solution. We recently posted the news piece Will Toronto get the first elephant exhibit without elephants?, which is another indication of what is happening.

The concept of eZoo is developed jointly by the Franz Weber foundation and Libera, and is a revolutionary project based on the latest technological advances. It is meant to include virtual reality, animatronics, enhanced reality, mapping and 3D projections, with the aim of turning a visit into a unique educational experience. eZoo is designed to create a space in which to raise awareness about the importance of species conservation - and respect for animals, their habitats and ecosystems - with programs adapted to the different types of visitors (children, families - students at primary schools, high schools and universities), as well as being a meeting point for local, national and international scientists and other experts.

In their press release eZoo states that one of their objectives is collaboration with organisations that run field conservation programs, including financial collaboration as well as publicity generation and exchange of knowledge. Examples include grant programs for field researchers and university students who wish to carry out studies of animals in their country of origin. eZoo also intend to push forward research into global warming, and to create a website for education, research and project funding.

eZoo aim to incorporate technological advances and developments which will give life to virtual animals immersed in recreations of their natural habitats and which can be seen acting in a totally natural state. The technology will allow visitors to not only feel immersed in the habitat of every species of animal and plant, but also “live

We are following with substantial interest and excitement the current discussion in Toronto where, on 12th May, the Toronto Zoo Board will decide whether the city's Zoo should phase out their elephants. We're encouraged to read in a recent report that the Toronto Zoo staff are recommending that the zoo should let their three aging African elephants, Iringa, Thika and Toka, go. And, we are willing to contribute our expertise and our elephant sound recordings from our collection to Toronto Zoo if they decide to build a new elephant exhibit without elephants!

ElephantVoices will support any high-tech, interactive, science-based elephant exhibit without elephants, and for many years we have hoped that a progressive zoo will grab the opportunity of being the first one out. We're convinced that such an exhibit will educate visitors about elephants, their behavior, their complex communication, their interests and the threats to their survival in the wild in a way that is dynamic and stimulating. We also believe that most of today's zoo visitors understand why elephants should not be confined in an urban zoo, and this should be even easier for people to grasp considering Toronto's cold climate. Toronto Zoo will gain respect and increased interest by such a move, rather than the opposite.

On 6th May in Toronto's thestar.com, City Councillor and Toronto Zoo Board Member, Glenn De Baeremaeker, is quoted saying: “Overall I’m very pleased with the report". And, "It’s cold in Toronto especially in January... You have a moral responsibility to the animals you shipped into this country to take care of them. And they’re currently in a space that is grotesquely too small.

On 3rd September Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington DC is opening Elephant Trails (see video below). The zoo calls the elephants' new home "innovative" and "groundbreaking". From our perspective it shows very little understanding of the real interests and needs of elephants. Our friend and colleague, Peter Stroud, has written an Op-Ed for Washington Post, which was published today.

We have stolen the title to this page from Peter's excellent piece - "ill-fitting" describes the new Elephant Trails perfectly. It is disturbing that with $50 million of tax payers money spent on this new exhibit the Smithsonian's National Zoo was not able to do better. In memory of Toni (photo), and with all that could have been done for the National Zoo's elephants at Front Royal or at one of the elephant sanctuaries, we hoped for much more.

If we go back five and a half years:
In early January 2005 we visited National Zoo, partly to see 40-year-old, Toni, who we had been told was in very bad condition. We watched Toni for a few hours from outside her barren enclosure - it was obvious that she was in pain with severe arthritis. Afterward, we met with National Zoo Director, John Berry, hoping that we could persuade him to send Toni to an elephant sanctuary, where she would have more space and freedom. We told him straight out that we predicted that Toni would die if they didn't do something urgently to improve her situation. Berry told us that Toni was fine, and that she had looked like that for decades.

On 11th January 2005 we sent a letter to the Zoo (374.34 kB), arguing for what we believed would be the best for Toni and the Zoo; we never received an answer. On 25th January, three weeks after our visit, Toni was euthanized. Toni is a grim example of what a life in captivity leads to. Her death triggered this article in the Washington Post.

The National Zoo is calling Elephant Trails "the cornerstone of our campaign to save Asian elephants." We are dumbfounded. How is keeping a few elephants in an inadequate space in North America "saving the Asian elephant"? To state that this new enclosure is the Zoo's "cornerstone" to save Asian elephants undermines the good science and education efforts that the Smithsonian Institution is doing for elephants. And that is a pity.