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For Immediate Release: 07/06/09

Philadelphia Elephant Move: Animal Protection Organizations Unite to Oppose Sending Elephants to Inhumane Pittsburgh Zoo Facility

Cruel Elephant Management Practices, Risky Breeding and Lack of Permanent Home in Store for Philly Elephants, Experts Say

Philadelphia, PA — Three leading animal protection organizations — Born Free USA, People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), and In Defense of Animals (IDA) — are joining forces to oppose the pending move of two African elephants, Kallie and Bette, from the Philadelphia Zoo to the Pittsburgh Zoo’s animal holding and breeding facility in Somerset County Pennsylvania.

The organizations point to four main animal welfare problems with the transfer:

  • Cruel, circus-style elephant training used by the Pittsburgh facility subjects elephants to physical punishment delivered with the bullhook, a heavy rod with a sharp steel hook at one end. More than half of Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoos no longer use bullhooks.
  • Confinement to small pens with no free access to the property’s several hundred acres. Since the facility has declined to erect elephant-proof fencing, elephants will only be walked around the property under the control of keepers with bullhooks, preventing them from engaging in natural physical and social elephant behavior.
  • Grave health risks associated with breeding. Both elephants are in their late 20s and would be 30 or older by the time they gave birth for the first time. This scenario (older first time mothers) has resulted in tragedy for other elephants in zoos, and it is widely acknowledged that African elephants in captivity who have never given birth and are older than 24 years should not be bred.
  • Denial of a permanent, stable and natural home. The Philadelphia Zoo lacks a coherent plan for these elephants. In the last five years, the zoo has alternately stated that it was expanding its elephant exhibit in Philadelphia (a plan dropped for lack of funding); that the elephants would be sent to the Maryland Zoo (a plan also dropped when the Maryland Zoo hit a financial snag); that the elephants would be sent to Pittsburgh for breeding; and, most recently, that the elephants will simply be stored in Pittsburgh until Philadelphia can build a new exhibit.

The groups said that instead of shipping the elephants to Pittsburgh, the Philadelphia Zoo should send them to one of two accredited natural habitat elephant sanctuaries located in California and Tennessee.

In 2006, the Philadelphia Zoo announced plans to close its elephant exhibit due to a lack of funding to address the inadequate conditions of the 60-year-old cramped enclosure. At that time the Philadelphia Zoo had four elephants. More than three years later, one elephant died after being found collapsed in the cement barn and another was sent to live out the rest of her life at the 2,700-acre Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

Born Free USA (bornfreeusa.org) is a leading national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the U.S. and globally. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA.org), with more than 2 million members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world. In Defense of Animals (IDAUSA.org) is an international, California-based animal advocacy organization dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals by defending their rights, welfare, and habitats.


Adam Roberts, Born Free USA, 202/445-3572
Debbie Leahy, PeTA, 630/393-9627
Suzanne Roy, In Defense of Animals, 919/697-9389

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