Urge The Oregon Zoo To Stop Elephant Breeding, Buying, & Bullhooks

The Oregon Zoo claims to have a viable conservation program for elephants. However, a true conservation program includes a plan for reintroducing captive-born animals to the wild. The Oregon Zoo has no such plan. No elephant born at the zoo will ever be reintroduced to the wild.

The zoo continues to aggressively breed elephants, under the guise of conservation, condemning these animals to a lifetime in captivity where they often suffer from zoonotic diseases. Four elephants so far have been diagnosed with Tuberculosis, a highly communicable disease. Over the past three years, three of these elephants have been euthanized.

Elephants are bred not for conservation, but rather because elephant calves have proven to draw customers and a big spike in revenue. In their desperation to breed the elephants, the zoo has disregarded scientific principles: breeding Packy with his sisters and attempting to breed Chendra with Tusko (belonging to two different sub-species). Several offspring died at infancy.

The Oregon Zoo has long shown very poor judgment when it comes to the elephants and their welfare. The zoo has bought and sold elephants, including selling very young calves to circuses, and it continues to enter into agreements that are questionable for the effect on elephant welfare.

Not long ago, the zoo entered into a breeding contract with a company that was caught on video beating and using an electric shock device on its elephants during training sessions. As a result of that contract, Lily was technically owned by the company and could have been sent to a life of circus performances and giving rides. Only after the contract was exposed, and a public uproar ensued, did the zoo purchase Lily.

The current breeding contract for Samson allows another zoo to claim certain offspring for their own, despite the trauma that would be caused by separating mothers and their offspring, especially the daughters who would naturally remain with their mothers for life. The buying, selling and/or trading of elephants treats them like interchangeable units, rather than the sentient and self-aware animals they are. The Oregon Zoo turns a blind eye to elephant welfare, when it means more breeding and crowd-pleasing babies.

The Oregon Zoo still uses the bullhook, a steel-tipped rod resembling a fireplace poker, used to control elephants through fear and pain. The zoo calls the bullhook a "guide" to avoid criticism. The zoo has a disturbing history with bullhooks.

In 2000, Rose-Tu was severely beaten with a bullhook and suffered over 176 wounds. The USDA cited the zoo for this animal welfare violation. Still, the abuse continued, as detailed in medical records by the zoo's own veterinarians. This includes excessive use of the bullhook on Pet (now deceased) who was crippled by arthritis. On nine separate occasions, veterinarians diagnosed bullhook wounds on her trunk, feet, shoulders, head, back, hip and ear.

Veterinarians have noted evidence of bullhook use on Chendra more than once; a zoo visitor lodged a complaint after seeing her shy away from a bullhook. Bullhooks are favored by handlers demanding quick results. Abuse usually happens behind the scenes, out of sight of zoo visitors. In contrast, today's progressive zoos use a management method called "protected contact" that is more humane for the elephants and safer for the keepers.

We demand that the Oregon Zoo management start addressing the problems surrounding captive elephants by making these three commitments:
  • That the zoo will discontinue the practice of breeding.
  • That the zoo will not buy, sell or trade elephants and separate elephant families.
  • That the zoo will discontinue the use of bullhooks and instead use protected contact only.
We request your help in urging the zoo to adopt these practices and provide our elephants the respect and admiration that they deserve.
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