New York’s Buffalo Zoo Shuts Down Controversial Elephant Exhibit

New York’s Buffalo Zoo, known as one of “the worst zoos” in America, is shutting down its elephant exhibit.

International animal protection organization In Defense of Animals (IDA) has welcomed the news. Buffalo Zoo had been named on its list of the “10 Worst Zoos for Elephants” five times over the last 10 years.

The zoo’s Asian elephants, Jothi and Supara, will be relocated to a different zoo in New Orleans this fall, where IDA hopes that they will receive more adequate care. However, the charity’s long-term aim is to have the animals moved to an accredited elephant sanctuary. The announcement from Buffalo Zoo follows a request from IDA for Jothi and Supara’s medical records.

The organization isn’t the only one skeptical of Buffalo Zoo and its ability to care for its animals. In 2006, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of care for zoo animals, delayed accrediting the Buffalo Zoo due to the poor state of its elephant enclosure.

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Jeff Wyatt, the incoming chairperson of the AZA’s accrediting commission, told The Buffalo News“[I]nternal and external reviews of the elephant care facility have demonstrated that the facilities are not the best place for the increasing health and medical needs of aging elephants.”

Elephant scientist Dr. Toni Frohoff said IDA is “delighted” by the news of the relocation. “In Defense of Animals has actively and arduously worked to free these elephants from their decrepit, unsuitable zoo conditions for over a decade,” she said in a statement.

“This is a positive move for Jothi and Supara, but we will continue our work to get them to an accredited elephant sanctuary where they can live as elephants instead of exhibits,” Frohoff added. “One less miserably freezing zoo exhibit for tropical elephants is a cause for great celebration.”

Elephants are one of the most exploited animals in the world, frequently used for entertainment in the tourist industry and hunted for their ivory in the wild. Many celebrities such as actor Cloris Leachman, supermodel Naomi Campbell, TV host Ellen DeGeneres, and actor and entrepreneur Leonardo DiCaprio, have spoken out in defense of elephants and condemned the cruelty they often face.

“Elephants…suffer in silence, but we can speak up,” Leachman said in a video for PETA against circus animal cruelty. She added, “cruelty is one tradition we can do without.”