Myth vs. Fact


The Oregon Zoo PR machine and its friends in the media continue their attempts to convince the public that taxpayer money from the $125 million bond passed in 2008 is being spent according to documented guidelines “to provide more humane conditions for elephants”.  Don’t be misled – Metro and zoo officials are failing to protect the health and well-being of the elephants. To excuse their failure, they have created an intricate and convoluted mythology of denial and delay. Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants challenges their Myths with the Facts.

Myth #1

During the 2008 Oregon Zoo bond measure campaign, Metro and Oregon Zoo officials made no promises for an off-site reserve, where zoo elephants would roam freely.

  • Fact
  • Details

Metro and Oregon Zoo officials made specific, on-the-record promises for an off-site reserve where the elephants would roam freely, convincing voters that support of the zoo bond would ensure a degree of freedom and comfort for Packy and the seven other zoo elephants.

Official Metro documents, print media and transcripts of Metro hearings contain numerous references linking passage of the $125 million Zoo Bond Measure to the establishment of an offsite elephant reserve as listed below:

5/8/2008 METRO COUNCIL RESOLUTION 08-3945 INITIATING $125 MILLION

ZOO BOND MEASURE – SUBMITTED AND SIGNED BY THEN METRO

COUNCIL PRESIDENT DAVID BRAGDON AND METRO ATTORNEY,

DANIEL B. COOPER

Purpose and Intent

On March 3, 2008, after two years of study, the collaborative effort of all the participants led the Oregon Zoo Foundation Board to recommend a request to the Metro Council to refer a Zoo bond measure to the voters.

The bond measure is primarily intended to raise money to pay for Zoo capital improvement projects that will: provide more humane care for Zoo animals, protect animal health and safety …”

Projects

MORE HUMANE CONDITIONS FOR ELEPHANTS

Providing more indoor and outdoor space.

Need:

Expanded spaces and upgraded facilities will improve elephant health and

welfare by providing more options for extending outside access, increasing exercise opportunities, and offering a more natural and stimulating environment for elephants.

Description:

The zoo is exploring the feasibility of providing an off-site area for elephants. Funds are set aside for potential capital needs of off-site space.

6/22/08 SUSAN NIELSON, THE OREGONIAN –

“FIX UP THE ZOO OR PACK UP ‘OL PACKY”

“Zoo leaders will ask Metro area voters this November to approve a bond that would quadruple the size of the elephant exhibit and set aside $12 million for an off-site elephant facility somewhere in the region.”

FALL 2008 VOTERS’ GUIDE – ARGUMENT IN FAVOR SHARON HARMON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OREGON HUMANE

SOCIETY IN REFERENCE TO ZOO BOND MEASURE 26-96

“The Oregon Humane Society believes that the planned off-site elephant respite center should be Measure 26 – 96’s top funding priority.”

11/4/08 JERRY CASEY, THE OREGONIAN

“METRO’S ZOO BOND PASSES” CONCERNING THE $125 MILLION ZOO BOND PASSAGE AND IT’S IMPLICATIONS FOR THE WELFARE OF OREGON ZOO ELEPHANTS:

“About $19 million is earmarked to expand the elephant exhibit at the zoo to six acres from 1 1/2 acres. An additional $12 million is intended to equip an off-site elephant reserve with a barn, care facilities and fencing.”

12/08 EDITORIAL BOARD, THE OREGONIAN

REMARKABLE CONFIDENCE IN THE OREGON ZOO AND IT NOW MUST DELIVER ON ITS PROMISES”

“BUSHWACKING THROUGH THE JUNGLE – VOTERS SHOWED

“… about 10 percent of the $125 million bond measure will likely go toward
creating a 100 to 150 acre off-site elephant reserve”.

4/20/11 EDITORIAL STAFF WILLAMETTE WEEK TIME TO CELEBRATE HIS 50th BIRTHDAY?”
DELIVER ON ITS 2008 CAMPAIGN PROMISES:

“ROGUE OF THE WEEK: METRO – CAN PACKY GET MORE ROOM IN IN REFERENCE TO METRO AND OREGON ZOO’S FAILURE TO Stephanie Cameron, Oregon Zoo spokesperson, claims the zoo hopes to break ground on the $19 million elephant habitat expansion next summer and adds that Metro approved taking an option on a 350-acre piece of land in Sandy for a planned off-site elephant sanctuary.

5/13/11 NICK CHRISTENSEN, STAFF WRITER, METRO (yes, that Metro)

NEWS – “SET PACKY FREE? ACTIVISTS ASK METRO TO RELEASE ZOO’S FAMED ELEPHANT”

“In 2008, nearly 60 percent of Metro region voters approved a $125 million bond to expand the elephant habitat at the zoo to six acres. It also called for a study of a possible elephant sanctuary, off-site and even larger.”

12/12/12 AARON MESH WILLAMETTE WEEK

$125 MILLION TO MAKE MORE ROOM FOR ELEPHANTS. IT’S ALSO MAKING MORE ELEPHANTS.”

“TUSK BUT VERIFY – THE OREGON ZOO TOLD VOTERS IT NEEDED IN REFERENCE TO METRO AND THE OREGON ZOO’S BROKEN

PROMISES:

“Four years later, the zoo has made little progress in using the money to make the elephants’ lives much better. Zoo officials promised a major expansion of the elephants exhibit – and another key promise: The zoo
would set aside money for a large off-site elephant reserve where the
animals could roam freely.”


Myth #2

During the campaign to promote the $125 million Oregon Zoo Bond Measure, Metro and Oregon Zoo officials clearly stated their intention to use the off-site reserve for the purpose of breeding elephants.

  • Fact
  • Details

The $125 million Oregon Zoo Bond Measure was a classic bait and switch.

During the course of the almost year long campaign, the words “elephant breeding” were never used by Metro or Oregon Zoo officials in bond measure documents, hearings, interviews or the media.

Instead, the words “reserve”, “preserve” and “sanctuary” were used repeatedly by Metro and Oregon Zoo officials, tricking voters into believing that support of the zoo bond would mean freedom for Packy and the seven other zoo elephants.

It wasn’t until February of 2011, almost 2 1/2 years after voters approved the $12 million zoo bond measure, that Metro Councilors and zoo officials began quietly referring to a “Master Plan” which inolved the breeding of elephants. In 2013, these the words “reserve”, “preserve” and “sanctuary” morphed into the cold, clinical term,

“Remote Elephant Center” or REC, where the zoo intends to increase the number of captive elephants from eight to nineteen.

The “Master Plan” plan will require the acquisition (purchase or rental) of breeding stock from nefarious animal brokers like Have Trunk Will Travel (known for its commercial exploitation of elephants and involved in the Lily and Tusko ownership scandal) the prolonged, invasive, experimental medical procedures to carry out artificial insemination and millions of dollars in additional taxpayer money.

Myth #3

The $58 million, 6.25 acre “Elephant Lands” exhibit, that opened in 2015, is adequate to insure the health and quality of life of Oregon Zoo elephants.

  • Fact
  • Details

The $58 million “Elephant Lands” exhibit, designed to provide zoo visitors with a theme park style experience, is sorely inadequate for the well-being of the eight Oregon Zoo elephants.

Much of the expanded “Elephant Lands” Exhibit is consumed in visitor walkways and viewing areas for people. Even more is consumed with buildings and barns where the elephants will be required to spend most of their lives. In contrast, the elephants’ natural habitat allows them thousands of miles where they might walk 30 miles a day, providing the variety and stimulation to keep them active 18 hours daily.

Expansion of the Oregon Zoo elephant exhibit will not provide the elephants a natural habitat with the range of movement adequate to maintain their health and well-being. Expansion of the Oregon Zoo elephant exhibit will not end the chronic suffering elephants endure from walking on flooring which, at best, poorly mimics the natural surfaces necessary to insure foot and bone health.

Expansion of the Oregon Zoo elephant exhibit will not end the prolonged boredom and stress which results in repetitive swaying, rocking, pacing and head bobbing, all of which are seen in the Oregon Zoo elephants.

These complex, social and most human-like of animals require freedom of range and movement in a variety of natural landscapes and lively social interaction in a herd to provide them with the activity and stimulation necessary to lead live full and healthy lives.

Myth #4

The well-being of the Oregon Zoo elephants is a priority for Metro and Oregon Zoo officials.

  • Fact
  • Details

Profits are the priority for Metro and Oregon Zoo officials.

Elephants are the “glamour beasts” of the zoo industry. Privately, Oregon Zoo officials refer to elephants as “charismatic mega-vertebrates”, counting on them to attract visitors and produce revenue.

With the Oregon Zoo dependent on elephants as money makers, their well being is a low priority. This was proven when the Oregon Zoo appeared for the fifth time on In Defense of Animals’ “Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants – 2013” list. IDA cited the Oregon Zoo for “pulling out the rug from under voters – and the elephants” – when it quietly shifted gears for plans of an off-site reserve to a breeding program, thus failing to provide any significant relief for zoo elephants who suffer from a range of captivity related problems, including foot and joint disease and tuberculosis.

It was The Toronto Zoo’s presence on this list in 2009 that sparked a campaign leading to the closure of its exhibit in 2013, with three elephants retired to a sanctuary. This brings the number of zoos that have closed or will close their elephant exhibits to 26.

The current Oregon Zoo Director was Vice President of Animal Care at The Brookfield Zoo in Chicago in 2009, when the last of its two elephants died, at ages 29 and 38, leading to the closure of its elephant exhibit.

While the Oregon Zoo clings to its elephants, there is a movement in more progressive zoos throughout the country to close elephant zoo exhibits. The Detroit Zoo closed its elephant exhibit in 2005, recognizing that the elephants’ physical needs and exceptional intelligence makes them incompatible with zoo captivity.

An example of the OZ’s failure to make elephant well-being a priority is found in the 2008 Voters Pamphlet – Phil Prewett, former animal keeper at the Oregon Zoo, recommended a “No” vote on the 2008 Oregon Zoo Bond Measure stating, “If humane care for elephants is truly the zoo’s goal, they should adopt a less dangerous management method.” He goes on to reveal that Oregon Zoo staff continues to use a modified bull hook (sometimes referred to as the “ankus” but called the “guide” by Oregon Zoo officials) and even, under some circumstances, the electric cattle prod.

The modified bull hook is a device used to train and control elephants. At one end is a steel hook. This is used to apply varying degrees of pressure to sensitive spots on an elephant’s body, causing it to move away from the source of discomfort. These outdated management tools are prohibited by zoo industry regulations and used only in the most backward zoos and circuses.

Another example is the adamant refusal by the current Oregon Zoo director to consider retiring the ailing 54 year old Packy to a sanctuary where he might live the rest of his years in peace and freedom. Her reason: ”We believe in family for our elephants … we have the oldest elephant family in a zoo because Packy started it all. That social network is important to them.”

However, as a bull elephant with no herd, Packy spends most of his time alone in complete isolation.

To obtain current health records for the Oregon Zoo elephants, citizens must file a Metro Public Records Request. Past filings have yielded valuable information concerning the health status of each elephant, some of which is referenced in Myth #5. However, exorbitant costs for current records make them unattainable.

Myth #5

The Oregon Zoo elephants are thriving, according to zoo officials who claim to have exclusive expertise in evaluating their well-being.

  • Fact
  • Details

The Oregon Zoo is unable to provide for the elephants’ physical and social needs.

Past health records show that each of the Oregon Zoo elephants suffers from foot disease (cracked nails, abscesses, lesions, ulcers, fissures, fractured toes) related to captivity. Chronic foot disease can only be managed, not prevented or cured, accordin to Mike Keele, the Oregon Zoo’s former Director of Elephant Habitats. Several of the elephants also suffer from arthritis. Untreatable foot infections and arthritis are the number one cause of premature death in zoo elephants.

Bullhook wounds, produced by a sharp steel hook/spear used to poke, prod and intimidate, have been identified on half the elephants. Behavioral problems recorded include stereotypical swaying and pacing, aggressive acts against other elephants and bulls pounding walls and doors, all of which are related to captivity.

Packy, who started Portland’s elephant craze in 1962, has chronic problems with cracked nails, lesions and abscesses on his right front foot. He receives almost daily treatments and therapies to manage the poor condition of his feet. He receives ibuprofen and acetaminophen for lameness. He was placed in Ibuprofen and Phenylbutazone dosage studies which require repeated restraint and bleedings.

He has a recurring abscess / lesion on the left side of his head from lying on a concrete floor and a hygroma (a soft, fluid-filled subcutaneous swelling over a bony prominence) on the right side of his head. He has had a foot injury from repeatedly kicking a door.

Packy has sired a number of calves. He has been the object of repeated attempts to extract sperm (through rectal palpitation and use of artificial vaginas) for artificial insemination.

Along with Rama, Packy was recently diagnosed with tuberculosis which, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) only occurs in captive elephants. He is not tolerating his TB medications which are compromising the health of his liver.

It should be noted that three Oregon Zoo staff members have tested positive for a latent form of tuberculosis. Free ranging elephants do not develop foot problems. They are not seen swaying and pacing. They do not have difficulties conceiving. They do not kill their own infants. They do not attack and kill the individuals with whom they are bonded. They do not suffer from tuberculosis.*

*Source: Joyce Poole, Ph.D., Research Director, Amboseli Elephant Research Project, Kenya

Myth #6

The Elephant Lands exhibit and the off-site elephant reserve will be completed within the timeline and budget Metro and Oregon Zoo officials stated in the 2008 $125 million Oregon Zoo Bond campaign.

  • Fact
  • Details

Both the Elephant Lands exhibit and the off-site elephant reserve are wildly off course.

Elephant Lands opened in December 2015, almost 8 years after the bond measure passed. The offsite preserve was cancelled in 2016, the now adjusted $7 million budget alloted for the preserve is to be spent on “unspecified projects.”

Myth #7

Elephants in captivity can be bred successfully as proven by The Oregon Zoo’s “world class” breeding program.

  • Fact
  • Details

Elephants in captivity breed poorly and die prematurely as proven by the Oregon Zoo’s dismal breeding history.

ELEPHANT LANDS

During the campaign for the $125 million Zoo Bond Measure, Metro stated the budget for expanding the elephant exhibit from 1.5 to 6.25 acres at $19 million.This amount ha snow risen to $58 million – a 328% increase.

Ground was broken on the elephant exhibit expansion now called “Elephant Lands” in June, 2013. The target date for completion is fall, 2015.

OFF-SITE ELEPHANT RESERVE

During the campaign for the $125 million Zoo Bond Measure, Metro stated the budget for an off-site elephant reserve at $12 million. That budget has now been reduced to $7.2 million.

But the project, touted by Metro and Oregon Zoo officials in 2008 as a 100+ acre reserve where zoo elephants would freely roam, is on indefinite hold and the possibility exists that it may never happen.

According to the Oregon Zoo Director, the reserve, which drew support for the $125 million zoo bond measure from almost 60% of Metro voters, is being held up due to lack of staff. “We can’t do Elephants Lands and the Remote Elephant Center at the same time because we don’t have the staff.”

The only step Metro and Oregon Zoo officials have taken towards fulfilling their promises to voters and taxpayers is placing an option to buy an approximately 200 acre parcel, four miles north of Sandy. The option expires at the end of 2014.

UPDATE; Metro cancelled the offsite preserve in January, 2016, citing as reasons insuffient funds for operating expenses and inability to find suitable property.

NOTE:

In a December 28, 2009, Metro issued press release with the headline, “Metro Names New Zoo Director”. In it, Michael Jordan, Metro’s Chief Operating Officer, states that Smith rose to the top of the list for many reasons, including her “adeptness at managing complex capital construction projects, completing them on time and on budget.”

Myth #8

The Oregon Zoo plans to breed elephants as part of a conservation program to prevent elephant extinction.

  • Fact
  • Details

Breeding elephants at the Oregon Zoo will not prevent elephant extinction and may even accelerate it.

Captive breeding programs are plagued by disease and high still-birth rate. The average infant mortality rate for captive elephants is a shocking 40%, nearly triple the rate in the Asian or African wild. Of the 28 elephants born at the Oregon Zoo, 7 died within four days of birth.

An aggressive elephant breeding program would require the Oregon Zoo to purchase or rent breeding stock, or shipping elephants like chattel throughout the country to breed. During this process the elephants will endure the stress of prolonged, invasive attempts at artificial insemination.

Of 27 zoo pregnancies achieved by artificial insemination in U.S. zoos since 1999, eight resulted in miscarriages or stillborn deaths and an additional six calves died from disease.

It will also require a continued relationship with Have Trunk Will Travel, the elephant “rental” business which not only made news with the Lily / Tusko ownership scandal but was proven to be abusing elephants by torturing them into submission with bull hooks and electrocution.

Of this relationship the Oregon Zoo Director said, “We have a really strong relationship with Have Trunk Will Travel and they really believe in our vision and pledge support of our vision. Our vision again is about matriarchal herds and developing that matriarchal herd choice for our elephants’ strong welfare.”

The truth is that the elephant breeding business is a dirty underworld where elephants are produced, used, sold and traded like black market merchandise.

OF THE 28 ELEPHANTS BORN AT THE OREGON ZOO SINCE 1962:

7 DIED AT BIRTH 25%

5 DIED BEFORE AGE 20 18%

4 DIED BEFORE AGE 35 14%

3 SICK 11%

1 STATUS UNKNOWN 3%

8 ALIVE 29%

SOURCE: Absolute Elephant Information Encyclopedia Database www.elephant.se

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