The Elephant in a living-room-sized space
October 8, 2006 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Philadelphia Zoo will close Elephant Exhibit, America's "Oldest Zoo" announced Thursday - becoming the 11th zoo in the US to stop displaying elephants since the Detroit Zoo made such a decision two years ago. Is this officially a trend yet?
posted by soyjoy (22 comments total)

 
Wait a minute, how can you not include the NYT piece on this (which is one of the most interesting pieces of science journalism I've read all year):


It's absolutely a trend.
posted by Maias at 1:00 PM on October 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Does Metafilter have elephantitis?
posted by poweredbybeard at 1:05 PM on October 8, 2006



posted by p3on at 1:07 PM on October 8, 2006


I want these motherfucking elephant posts off of motherfucking MeFi.
(No, I haven't searched all the elephant threads to see if someone has already said this.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2006


We joined the Philadelphia zoo solely because the Bronx Zoo moved its elephants onto its safari tram tour, where you can only see them for a few seconds. My son loves the elephants. Amazing that Baltimore will be the closest place to New York with elephants to visit...
posted by MattD at 1:12 PM on October 8, 2006


This elephant thing -- a Republican dirty trick to take people's minds off of Foleygate!
posted by ericb at 1:18 PM on October 8, 2006



posted by ericb at 1:21 PM on October 8, 2006


What I don't understand (longtime Detroit Zoo member here) is why zoos are focusing on elephants, and not on other species who don't like winter/small cages/screaming children/cotton candy/whatever. Or on the exotic pet trade that zoos sell surplus animals to. The Detroit Zoo sells their tiger cubs on the exotic pet trade market, through a middleman, then we end up reading a year later about a tiger that has ended up at the Michigan Humane Society.

This is mostly hand-waving to distract from real issues in conservation and the animal trade, from what I can figure out.
posted by QIbHom at 1:24 PM on October 8, 2006


Should the Simpsons get an elephant?
posted by Flashman at 1:34 PM on October 8, 2006


What I don't understand (longtime Detroit Zoo member here) is why zoos are focusing on elephants

Because it's purely economic. As of this summer, it cost extra money to see the elephants at the Philadelphia Zoo. The article said that they were planning on making the elephant enclosure larger, but couldn't find the money. So this is not a humanitarian decision, even if you might hear it spun that way in the future.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:36 PM on October 8, 2006


When did this become elephantfilter?
posted by brassafrax at 1:39 PM on October 8, 2006


Because it's purely economic.

Well, not "purely," because if so it would have been an issue to act on decades ago. It's only become economic because zoos now have had to acknowledge that the amount of space they've allotted for elephants has been woefully inadequate, and yes, larger enclosures cost way more money.
posted by soyjoy at 2:10 PM on October 8, 2006


I wouldn't call it purely economic, Elephants require a lot of room (according to this article the Elephant Protection Act will require a minimum of 1,800 square feet per elephant, plus an additional 900 square feet for each additional elephant), a lot of enrichment so they don't get bored and they live to a rip old age.

These are all pretty big considerations when taking on or keeping animals at zoos. The zoo my partner works at can't take on Elephants because they can't expand the zoo, the terrain isn't that good for Elephants (they won't go up inclines above a certain amount) and they have a 'hands off' policy, so caring for the elephants would be difficult.
posted by X-00 at 2:15 PM on October 8, 2006


But, why the focus on elephants? Why not expanding space for Klipspringers, or gorillas? I understand they know more now, but they know more about all the species, not just elephants.
posted by QIbHom at 2:43 PM on October 8, 2006


stop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop itstop it stop it stop it stop it

GYOF(E)B
posted by lalochezia at 2:54 PM on October 8, 2006


They are QIbHom, it's just Elephants due to their needs, size and public attention they recieve, are the most visable of these types of rule changes if the zoo can't comply with them. These rules are almost always in the best interests of the animals and based on what we've learnt about the species. For some highly endangered species it's much more important rules like optimal breeding enviroments and situations, which as a member of the general public you wouldn't see.
posted by X-00 at 3:59 PM on October 8, 2006


Well, not "purely," because if so it would have been an issue to act on decades ago. It's only become economic because zoos now have had to acknowledge that the amount of space they've allotted for elephants has been woefully inadequate, and yes, larger enclosures cost way more money.

If the people behind a zoo actually cared about animals, they wouldn't have them in zoos in the first place. Just like if I loved animals they way that I say I do, I wouldn't patronize zoos.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:10 PM on October 8, 2006


GYOF(E)B
posted by homunculus at 4:16 PM on October 8, 2006


Elephants are also dangerous and crafty [see 1/23/04 incident from Auckland, NZ for clever elephant escape], and kill zookeepers regularly. So, it's harder to find good keepers, and impossible to find liability insurance.
posted by paulsc at 4:55 PM on October 8, 2006


Either way, I don't like that elephants are kept in tiny little pens, and maybe this is because I have seen them hanging out on the streets in India and such. I also think we should have more places in the country like the wild animal park in san diego. Or maybe there are and I don't know about them? I grew up in the Midwest, there's no room for elephants, just farms.
posted by echo0720 at 5:08 PM on October 8, 2006


Wait a minute, how can you not include the NYT piece on this (which is one of the most interesting pieces of science journalism I've read all year):

Thank you so much for this article, Maias. Fascinating and terrible and incredibly touching. Wow. Elephants are amazing.
posted by biscotti at 5:38 PM on October 8, 2006


If the people behind a zoo actually cared about animals, they wouldn't have them in zoos in the first place.

That's an easy truism, but I don't think it's really that simple. I think there are a lot of people who really do care, even passionately, about animals, in the zoo industry. It's just that the industry is set up from its very basis, and from the top down, to exploit animals, and nothing that caring people do within those confines can alter that very much. One central problem, and the National Zoo is only the most glaring example of this, is that it's virtually impossible for anyone to be a specialist in the health and safety of hundreds of different species of animal, so even well-meaning treatments can go horribly awry and animals can suffer greatly when signals of their distress are missed.

I agree that elephants are the focus now because the difference between the space they obviously need and the space they get is so clearly visible; then again, big cats need a similar amount of space so we may see the issue spread to them in the coming years.

By "top down," I'm talking about the American Zoo Association, which has threatened more than one zoo (most famously Detroit) with loss of its accreditation if it did not comply with their order to transfer elephants to another zoo rather than send them to a sanctuary.
posted by soyjoy at 5:50 AM on October 9, 2006


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