That they can lead to death? That's right. Well, sort of...if you're an Asian elephant at the Oregon Zoo, that is. Congratulations to the Zoo, for making its way onto In Defense of Animals (IDA)'s 2006 list of “Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants.”
The findings, released this morning by IDA, report that 5 out of 6 elephants suffer from chronic foot disorders at our favorite local Saturday afternoon destination to take the kids on an adventure through the African Savanna.
Suzanne Roy, program director for IDA, says that their studies found "almost every elephant at the Oregon Zoo has serious foot disease, a direct result of the inadequate and unnatural conditions at the zoo—the primary one being the lack of space to exercise and walk."
Bill LaMarche, media relations officer for the Zoo, cautioned that studies such as those from IDA often have clear agendas against zoos – or take selective information out of context from comprehensive medical records. “The IDA's press release was damaging to the elephant keepers who take care of these elephants. The reason they do the job is because they love elephants and care about their future.”
In Defense of Animal's website states the organization is an “international non-profit animal protection organization dedicated to ending the institutionalized exploitation and abuse of animals by defending their rights, welfare and habitats.” Suzanne Roy, program director for IDA, says that their studies found "almost every elephant at the Oregon Zoo has serious foot disease, a direct result of the inadequate and unnatural conditions at the zoo—the primary one being the lack of space to exercise and walk."
In the wild, elephants walk up to 30 miles per day, but in some cases, smaller enclosures can potentially lead elephants to stand on hard, unnatural surfaces for extended periods of time – and experience a host of problems as a result of the inadequate roaming space.
“Our outdoor yards actually consist of soft sand and grass, indoors consists of a two-inch recycled rubber flooring material that cushions the elephants' joints,” LaMarche says. “When [IDA] puts out these blanket statements, it's like they haven't done their homework.”
IDA did not single out the Oregon Zoo in making accusations of elephant mistreatment. In a survey of medical records for 35 zoos holding elephants nationwide, the IDA reported that 62 percent of their elephants experienced similar foot disorders.