Captivity Kills Sign | Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants

#1 The Conservation CON

The Oregon Zoo claims it is conserving a wild species by breeding them, but its elephants are never returned to the wild. The only reason the zoo breeds elephants is to reverse its declining attendance and revenue numbers. Nothing sells zoo tickets like a baby elephant.
Zoos also claim they contribute many resources to conservation efforts in Asia and Africa. However, even the AZA, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, admit that AZA zoos spend from zero to 7 percent on conservation. To quote Dr. Keith Lindsay, of the Amboselli Trust in Kenya, “The millions of dollars spent on elephant exhibits in zoos could fund a refuge in Africa for eternity.”
The only way to protect elephants is to save their habitat where they live, and work with indigenous communities to develop ways to live in harmony with elephants.
Furthermore, as Dr. Margi Prideaux, an international wildlife policy writer says, zoos seldom cosnsult with indigenous cultures to find out how they can help restore elephant populations and work to solve human/elephant conflicts. The money that is spent on conservation in range countries often goes to government beaurocrats, not to the workers in the field.
Elephant births in zoos are not keeping pace with deaths, so zoos are now importing more elephants from Africa and Asia. A few years ago, Swaziland sold 18 elephants to three zoos in the US, in 2019 Zimbabwe sold 100 elephants to China and Dubai. In 2017, Laos illegally sold dozens of elephants to Chinese circuses, zoos and safari parks. This trend is increasing. Zoos are depleting elephant populations, not conserving them.

#2 Lack of Space

Zoos provide anywhere from one to 6 acres for elephants. Even the biggest of zoo enclosures is far from enough space for elephants who have evolved over centuries to walk for miles.
The AZA claims that the size of a two car garage is adequate space to house an elephant at a zoo. Wild elephant experts including Dr. Joyce Poole and Cynthia Moss, after observing wild elephants for decades in their range countries, state that an elephant’s space requirement is vastly larger. In fact, elephants walk up to 30 or more miles a day, to forage, to socialize, to find water; and this provides them with the physical and mental health they need to thrive as elephants.
In a zoo, elephants are confined to a one to 4 acre enclosure. Elephants are one of the most intelligent and social species on earth. Once they have walked across the zoo’s outdoor yard a few times, they are bored. Even a dog would get bored if never allowed to leave her yard. Imagine what life is like for these massive beings who literally must walk for miles to keep their joints, feet and minds healthy.
Lack of space for Elephants at the Oregon Zoo | Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants
Risk of Infection and Disease in Oregon Zoo Elephants | FOZE Facts

#3 Risk of Infection & Disease

Due to the conditions of captivity, diseases such as TB and herpes run rampant in zoos.
Five elephants were infected with TB at the Oregon Zoo. Rama, Tusko and Packy are now deceased. Shortly after Packy’s death in February of 2017, Shine was diagnosed with this highly contagious disease. Seven zoo staff members also tested positive for TB. Then in 2019 Chendra was infected with an active strain of TB. In the wild, the only time wild elephants get this disease is when they come in contact with humans. Zoo and circus elephants are highly susceptible to TB. They often live in cramped, small spaces and in wet and cold environments, which make the elephants more likely to get TB.
The elephants at the Oregon Zoo are forced to live indoors for many months during the bitter cold winter months. There is really no adequate way to quarantine the TB elephants, as the disease is airborne and space is so limited, therefore risking further contamination of the herd.
Herpes is another disease often seen in zoos, and it usually affects very young elephants. Six year old Lily died from the herpes virus in 2018. Oregon Zoo veterinarian Kelly Flaminio says that about 1 in 5 young Asian elephants dies from the disease in captivity.

#4 High Mortality Rate

After years of confinement in zoos, elephants suffer from physical and mental breakdowns.
Even more disastrous for elephants than TB is the risk of foot disease, the number one killer of elephants in captivity. Even though the zoo has switched to sand, the elephants walked for years on cement indoors and hard packed surfaces outdoors, which break down their feet, resulting in often fatal foot rot.
The new sand surface has not cured their foot disease or their painful fractures. Sometimes the foot pain is so bad, elephants have been seen lifting one foot and then another and even leaning on their trunks to take the weight off their infected feet. This was true with Pet who was euthanized in 2006 due to her arthritis and foot disease. Arthritis and joint disease are common, as well as abscesses. Elephants are subjected to many invasive blood draws and are given a host of medications, including numerous pain medications to deal with the adverse conditions of captivity.
Mentally, elephants don’t fare any better. When you see them swaying back and forth or bobbing their heads or pacing endlessly, they are not dancing, they are suffering from extreme stress, boredom and depression. Chendra walks continuously in circles. Packy paced for long periods of time. Tusko and Rama both bobbed their heads from side to side. In addition Rama and Tusko had debilitating leg injuries. After many years of taking pain meds, the meds no longer worked for Rama and he was euthanized at age 31, Tusko at 44.
Foot Rot in the Oregon Zoo Elephants | Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants
Breeding Programs at the Oregon Zoo | Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants

#5 Breeding Death at the Oregon Zoo

Captive breeding programs are plagued by disease and high still-birth rate. The average infant mortality rate for captive elephants is 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. By 2019, 21 of the 28 born at the zoo died.
The Oregon Zoo’s aggressive breeding plan requires the zoo to import breeding stock, shipping elephants like chattel from zoo to zoo to produce their most popular attraction, baby elephants.
The fact is that the elephant breeding business is a dirty underworld where elephants are produced, used, sold and traded like black market merchandise.
3 SICK 11%
8 ALIVE 29%

SOURCE: North American Regional Studbook – Asian Elephant 

So far, according to zoo staff, artificial insemination (AI) has failed at the Oregon Zoo, but for years, the zoo forcefully extracted sperm from Packy in its efforts to succeed with this method, and breeding plans showed that Samudra and Tusko were being trained for AI.
Behind the facade of the manicured public viewing areas, there are restraint rooms that can be used for blood draws and to restrain and inseminate elephants.

#6 Tools of Coercion

Despite the AZA’s mandate to cease the use of bullhooks, the Oregon Zoo still keeps what the zoo industry calls a “guide” or in Asia, an ankus, on hand to manage their elephants.
This tool that looks like a cattle prod, with a sharp point at the end is used to jab elephants into submission. At FOZE, we advocated for years for the zoo to use only protected contact, where the elephants are managed behind a safety barrier, and rid itself of all bullhooks. We can take some credit for the fact that the zoo now uses target training with sticks and does manage elephants behind a barrier, at least in public.
However, the zoo has a long history of abuse with bullhooks, including a severe beating of Rose-Tu in 2000 when she was just five years old, so we advocate for the zoo to completely eliminate bullhooks as the Oakland Zoo and all zoos in California have done and to never engage with elephants in free contact.
Bullhook | Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants
Children Protesting to Free Oregon Zoo Elephant Packy | FOZE Facts

#7 Your Tax Dollars Support Elephant Abuse

The Oregon Zoo loses a shocking $70,000 per day. This leaves Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington County taxpayers on the hook to cover the $26 million yearly deficit.
In 2008, taxpayers also gave the Oregon Zoo an additional $125 million after being promised that a portion of the money would be spent to create an off-site elephant reserve. Instead of a reserve, the Oregon Zoo spent $57 million to build a concrete, metal, glass and sand dungeon.