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.
Toronto’s City Council last fall approved the transfer of three aging elephants from the local zoo to our good friends at the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s sanctuary not far from Born Free USA’s headquarters in Sacramento. We cheered, because this decision clearly was in the elephants’ best interests.
But we knew there was strong opposition, and that some would not be content to accept defeat silently.
So it came as no great surprise — but with great disappointment — that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums announced, as a result of the elephants’ impending transfer, that the Toronto Zoo has been stripped of its AZA certification and will not be allowed to reapply until next year. According to a story in the Toronto Star published online, “The AZA says the council vote contravened the association’s governance rules.”
The zoo’s chief executive officer was quoted as saying the decertification will have limited impact on the zoo’s programs and standing. But what it does do is send a message that the zoo community does not support sanctuary life for elephants. Shame!
Toronto city officials, like Detroit city officials before them, made a compassionate and politically courageous decision to place the elephants’ welfare over strident calls to retain the elephants, calls that I would categorize as selfish and ill-considered.
Now if only other zoos would follow, and someday in the not too distant future there will be no elephants in any zoo, anywhere — for the very specific reason that elephants deserve more than the modern zoo can offer. And at some point after that, no sanctuaries would be needed for elephants who’d been subjected to the zoo brand of life: metal bars, concrete floors, grossly inadequate space, limited if any socialization, etc.
African elephants don’t belong in Toronto (or Los Angeles or Dallas or Washington, DC). African elephants belong in Africa.