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Born Free USA Blog
Adam M Roberts

Born Free USA Blog

by Adam M Roberts,
Chief Executive Officer

When it comes to animals, Adam Roberts not only talks the talk, but also walks the walk. Since beginning his animal advocacy career in Washington, D.C. in 1991, Adam's ambition, tireless involvement, and profound knowledge of conservation and wildlife issues have cemented him as a go-to voice for protecting animals — and he has elevated Born Free USA to the respected and impactful organization that we know today. Adam's compassionate, informed, and forward-thinking blogs will surely motivate you to join us in our fight to Keep Wildlife in the Wild.

A solitary female African elephant

Published 04/09/09

In nature almost impossible to find.

In zoos all too common — and not just in the low grade, impoverished zoos scattered around the developing world (usually an embarrassing remnant of colonial days).

The Dallas Zoo, in one of the wealthiest states of the world’s superpower, has a solitary female African elephant — Jenny.

She is 32 years old. Her last companion animal was euthanized in May 2008 and she “inhabits” about one quarter of an acre of baked earth and concrete.

But wait — the zoo has plans!

How to fix it for Jenny:

  • Send her to a safari park in Mexico (oh no, that idea was abandoned due to public pressure)
  • Make sure she has plenty of space! How about 4 acres?
  • Make sure she is not alone! Bring in more elephants (yes, of course that’ll reduce the space per animal, but who’s counting?)
  • Spend LOTS of money! Yes, we’re good at that. How about $30 million?

That should do it.

Hang on! What about the alternative plan endorsed by world experts who really know about elephants, like Dr Joyce Poole, Dr Cynthia Moss, Dr Keith Lindsey, and more ... you know, send her to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee where she would have more than 300 acres, the companionship of three other African elephant females, and where they have been looking after rescued elephants for years? The plan which would, by the way, cost a fraction of the Zoo enclosure.

The thing is ... we, the Zoo, we know what we’re doing. Those Sanctuary folks — it’s all a bit homespun and the costs are too low. Be reasonable, if it’s costing us $30 million then it stands to reason they can’t possibly look after her properly for $2 million for the rest of her life ... surely ... can they??

My friends. If this was a script for a soap or for an episode of The Simpsons you’d think it was an allegory — a fictional story told to highlight a real-life issue. But it’s not. It’s real-life all right. And it makes me mad!

Not only is this, in my view, the wrong decision for Jenny, I think about what the rest of the money could do for elephants in Africa — Jenny’s ancestral home. I work in Kenya a lot. The Kenya Wildlife Service looks after Kenya’s wildlife — including elephants. They have 4,000 staff, have stewardship of more than 6,000,000 acres, and Kenya has 33,000 elephants (not to mention all the other wild, free-living species such as lions, leopards, cheetah, giraffe, hippo, rhino — more than I can list here). And they do that for an annual bill which is less than the cost of the 3-acre elephant enclosure in the Dallas Zoo.

The world has gone crazy. Logic and compassion has fled. Ego and self-justification rule. Money talks (instead of serves).

Born Free USA and I personally support the Save Jenny Now campaign. For once, let’s do the right thing. Let Jenny go to Tennessee and be proud!

Blogging off!


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