Elephant Expose at Oregon Zoo
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


In Defense of Animals (IDA)
May 2015

For more, visit Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants

Oregon zoo elephant
Photo Credit: KOIN 6 News

A searing and seminal report on Oregon Zoo's mistreated elephants by KOIN 6 news in Portland and IDA in the news.

In an unprecedented, in-depth investigation, Carla Castano of KOIN 6 news in Portland Oregon has exposed the dark truth of the Oregon Zoo's (OZ) long-suffering captive elephants. This four-part series puts into question whether elephants are even suited for life in captivity. Just because we can keep them in zoos, should we?

With the help of medical records provided by IDA's elephant scientist, Dr. Toni Frohoff, the investigation exposed suffering from lesions, abscesses, recurring foot problems, and bullhook abuse. IDA recently shared the sad news that Rama, a 31-year old Asian elephant, had to be euthanized this year at the OZ due to pain and immobility caused by captivity-related conditions.

Each segment of this news investigation focuses on a specific issue; the first asking "How much room do elephants need?" With the proposed building of "Elephant Lands" said to open this fall, the seven elephants at the OZ would ideally have more room for walking and living space than they currently have on their 1.5 acres. However, the Zoo is planning for more elephants to arrive through acquisition and by an aggressive breeding program that would subject the elephants to invasive procedures and reduce the available space per elephant.

This expansion of space is, in part, an attempt to reduce the chronic foot problems that have been such a serious, if not lethal, issue for these elephants. The segment explores the question of whether 3 more acres are enough for these majestic animals who need to walk at least 5-20 miles a day in the 'wild world' where they belong. Most convincingly, Blair Csuti, who worked at the OZ as the Conservation Coordinator from 1997-2005, says that "lack of exercise and being chained up most of the day, 16 hours in a small stall in their own excretion is not conducive to foot health" or any degree of health!

Segment two exposes why and how the OZ has been recklessly breeding, and delves into its plans to expand its inhumane breeding program, including its in- and cross-breeding of elephants.

According to Phil Prewett, who worked at the OZ for 27 years (much of the time with elephants), elephants were not well treated. Documents reveal a history of abusive attempts to collect semen from male bull elephants for breeding, as well as patterns of inbreeding at the zoo between families, creating incestuous family trees. Perhaps mercifully, these offspring did not survive.

All under the guise of conservation but actually for the sake of profit, these elephants have been subjected to decades of psychological and physical trauma.

Segment three exposes, "The Bullhook: insurance, weapon, or both?" All too familiar in zoos and circuses, the brutal bull hook is used to control and terrorize elephants. A bullhook ban bill was introduced in the California Senate, and bullhook bans have already been passed in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco, California as well as most recently in Richmond, Virginia. However, many areas still allow its use as the main control device of captive elephants.

The medical records provided by IDA revealed documentation on the repeated abuse of Rose-Tu, hit 176 times by Fred Marion, a zookeeper said to have had his skull fractured by an elephant. He became 'hook happy' once he was alone with the elephants again, showering abuse on Rose-Tu, and others, for months. He was eventually fired, but not prosecuted, as it could not be "proven"-shockingly- that Rose-Tu suffered.

Finally-bait and switch. The fourth segment uncovers how the $12 million bond passed for an elephant "reserve, preserve, or sanctuary" for the elephants' wellbeing will now be used for a "Remote Elephant Center" where some of the elephants will be forced to endure prolonged, invasive and dangerous medical procedures for dubious breeding purposes.

According to Free The Oregon Zoo Elephants, "The words 'elephant breeding' were never used by Metro or the OZ officials in bond measure documents, hearings, interviews or the media in their appeals for money. Instead, the words, 'reserve, preserve and sanctuary' were used repeatedly by Metro and the OZ officials, tricking voters into believing that support of the zoo bond would mean freedom for Packy and the seven other zoo elephants."

In 2013 these words were ...replaced by the 'Remote Elephant Center' or REC, where the zoo intends to increase the number of captive elephants ... to nineteen. The zoo plans to collaborate with nefarious traveling elephant "brokers" and others in their quest to expand their horrific "haven" for elephants.

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