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Three NY Zoos Named Among "Worst for Elephants"

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015   

NEW YORK - Zoos in three New York cities are targeted by an animal-rights group on an annual list of what it calls North America's "10 worst zoos" for elephants.

The group "In Defense of Animals" accused the Buffalo Zoo of housing its two Asian female elephants in a "shockingly" small space. It said the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse "cruelly" separated a 6-year-old pachyderm from his mother and transferred him to an animal attraction in Canada. It also criticized the Bronx Zoo for its small elephant enclosures.

The group's Toni Frohoff, an elephant and cetacean scientist, said the three zoos share another problem.

"The cold climate of New York is certainly not meant for elephants who have evolved for millennia to live in tropical climates such as in India and Thailand," she said.

The Buffalo Zoo's president and chief executive told a local newspaper that it has twice as much space as IDA claimed. The Bronx Zoo has had no comment, and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo didn't return our calls seeking a response.

Frohoff, who holds a Ph.D. in behavioral biology of wildlife, said Happy, one of the Bronx Zoo's three elephants, was noteworthy for recognizing herself in a mirror, proving that elephants are self-aware.

"Happy's reward for her contribution to science was to be sentenced to solitary confinement for almost 10 years - since 2006 - all with the zoo's knowledge that she is aware, cognitively, of her suffering," she said.

The other two Bronx Zoo elephants would attack Happy. Frohoff said it's proof that their living conditions disturb them.

Frohoff said zoos keeping elephants - especially in colder North American climates - are guilty of what she called "captivity in the guise of conservation."

"A lot of zoos are getting out of the elephant business," she said. "Almost 30 zoos in North America have closed, or will be closing, their elephant exhibits, just since 1991."


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