In some respects, 2017 was a banner year for the wild and captive elephants of the world. At least 44 zoos around the globe, including 29 here in the United States, have closed their elephant exhibits for good. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus took down their tents for the last time, ending a decades-long history of criminal abuse and exploitation. Prohibitions against the use of elephants for entertainment were passed in Illinois and New York State, and New York City has joined with over 100 other jurisdictions in the United States and Canada legislating partial and even full bans against the use of all wild animals in performances.
Zoos follow a losing strategy of sexually abusive captive breeding programs to stock elephant exhibits which does not further conservation of this ecologically vital species. Elephants in zoos across North America are still being forced to perform. They are subjected to barbaric bullhooks, grossly inadequate and unsuitable conditions, egregious disregard for their needs, captivity-caused health problems, cold climates, incompatible companions, and crushing isolation in endless solitary confinement.
In Defense of Animals has released the "10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America" exposing the shocking hidden suffering of captive elephants.
Since 2003, In Defense of Animals has released its annual list naming and shaming the worst offenders and shining a glaring spotlight on premature deaths, brutal breeding procedures, and flagrant violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
An alarming number of wild elephants are being captured and ripped from their families to be beaten before they are shipped to zoos throughout the world; 17 of them have ended up in zoos in the United States since 2015.
THIS YEAR'S WORST ZOO LOSERS ARE:
1. Topeka Zoo, Topeka, Kansas
2. Pittsburgh Zoo and International Conservation Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
3. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Omaha, Nebraska
4. Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Kentucky
5. Oregon Zoo, Portland, Oregon
6. Myrtle Beach Safari, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
7. Two Tails Ranch, Williston, Florida
8. St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, Missouri
9. Natural Bridge Zoo, Rockbridge County, Virginia
10. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Columbia, South Carolina
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS - REPEAT OFFENDERS
Edmonton Valley Zoo, Alberta, Canada
Bronx Zoo, Bronx, New York which refuses to send “Happy” who is alone and lonely in her enclosure. Legitimate elephant sanctuaries have offered to have “Happy” transferred so that she can spend the remaining years of her life with other female African elephants in a large area; but the zoo refused.
The zoo industry is desperate to hold on to any shred of remaining credibility; launching campaigns of disinformation, obfuscation, and outright lies, and conning the public that their programs are for 'conservation'.
Elephant lifespans are considerably shorter and devoid of family love in captivity as compared to life in the wild. Captive elephants suffer and die early due to a myriad of health and psychological problems caused by their unnatural and restrictive environments. Elephants do not reproduce well in captivity and tragically, 4 of 10 baby elephants born in zoos die early. High death rates and low birth rates lead to further tragedy, as zoos plunder juvenile elephants from the wild in Africa and Asia to restock their exhibits.
The zoo industry is so desperate to deceive the public into believing they stand for conservation that they have even taken to calling small, isolated collections of one or two unrelated elephants "herds." It's shameful the depths to which this industry will sink to protect its bottom line.