THE BRONX — The Bronx Zoo needs to stop mistreating its elephants and move them to a sanctuary, according to an animal rights group.
In Defense of Animals, an international animal protection organization based in California, has released its annual list of the 10 worst zoos for elephants in North America and gave the Bronx Zoo a dishonorable mention, one year after announcing that the zoo had entered its Hall of Shame.
The group harshly criticized the Bronx Zoo for forcing its elephants to endure cold winters and keeping an elephant named Happy in solitary confinement so she will not be attacked or killed by the zoo's other elephants.
The Oklahoma City Zoo was No. 1 on this year's list, and New York State's Buffalo Zoo was No. 6, moving up three slots from it's position last year at No. 9.
In Defense of Animals criticized the Buffalo Zoo for forcing their elephants to sit through New York's cold winters as well, adding that the zoo does not provide them with nearly enough space to move around.
“It is disgusting and unethical to keep tropical animals where they are confined for months in New York’s freezing winter climate, and to condemn a highly-social elephant to live in virtual solitary confinement," In Defense of Animals President Dr. Marilyn Kroplick said in a statement. "The Bronx and Buffalo Zoos are exploiting elephants, violating their rights, stripping them of their dignity, and submitting them to disgusting abuses in their barren prisons.”
The Bronx Zoo has said that it will shut down its elephant exhibit after one or two of the animals die, according to In Defense of Animals, but the group is calling on them not to wait for that but rather to send them to a sanctuary.
The Bronx Zoo and Buffalo Zoo did not respond to requests for comment, while the Oklahoma City Zoo released a statement defending how it treats its elephants and blasting In Defense of Animals for using "deceitful tactics to manipulate the public in an effort to further their anti-zoo agenda."
"Detractors like the IDA mislead the public while doing nothing to conserve or protect elephants," the statement reads. "Zoos provide elephants excellent care and are at the forefront of conservation."
Dr. Toni Frohoff, a wildlife biologist who specializes in elephants for In Defense of Animals, said the Bronx Zoo received a dishonorable mention this year to help keep up the pressure on it to move its elephants, especially Happy, to a sanctuary.
"Usually when we put a zoo in the Hall of Shame, we let it rest there," she said, "but we really couldn’t in good conscience continue the list without listing the [Bronx] Zoo for this year because we are so very concerned, especially about the elephant named Happy."