Animal protection group raises questions about elephant’s health and role of medications

San Rafael, Calif. – Today, In Defense of Animals (IDA) sent a letter to Buffalo Zoo President & CEO Donna Fernandes, calling for the zoo to publicly release the medical records and preliminary necropsy for Buki, the 52-year-old Asian elephant who died yesterday. The call was spurred by questions about Buki’s health prior to her death and the possible role of medications.

“Buki’s death raises important questions that can only be answered through the complete disclosure of her veterinary records and necropsy reports,” said Catherine Doyle, IDA campaign director. “If the zoo has nothing to hide, it should have no problem releasing this information to the public, which is entitled to know the truth about Buki’s long-term health and the circumstances of her death.”

In the letter, IDA raised the question of whether Buki had suffered from painful foot disease and/or arthritis, ailments caused by inadequate zoo conditions. Elephants held in small displays with little room to move and who are forced to stand and walk on hard surfaces such as concrete and hard-packed soil – as seen at the Buffalo Zoo – often develop these painful ailments that can cause acute suffering and premature death. In the wild, elephants walk tens of miles a day on natural surfaces that maintain foot and joint health.

IDA also pointed out that earlier this month Buki’s blood work showed signs of impaired kidney function, and questioned the role of medications in her life and death. Few people know that many elephants in zoos are maintained on high doses of pain killing and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) to treat painful foot and joint ailments. Chronic use of such medications can cause liver and kidney toxicity.

Due to the zoo’s inadequate conditions for elephants, including frigid weather that forces them indoors into tiny spaces for the majority of the winter, IDA further urged the zoo to refrain from bringing more elephants to Buffalo and to end the practice of keeping them altogether.

Buffalo Zoo twice earned a spot on IDA’s list of the Top Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants (2007, 2008) because of its poor conditions for elephants.

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization located in San Rafael, Calif. dedicated to protecting animals' rights, welfare, and habitat through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in Mumbai, India, Cameroon, Africa, and rural Mississippi. _________________________________________________________________________________

IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS • 3010 KERNER BLVD. • SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901 • 415-448-0048


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  • Renee Cutway wrote on 19 July, 2014, 5:11

    Each year, the company I work for has an annual employee & family day at the Buffalo zoo.  I went one year and will never go back.  The elephants were already locked up in their shelter before 5pm on a nice summer evening with plenty of daylight left in the day.  It was so upsetting to hear them stomping and crying out.  I sent an email to the zoo expressing my concerns and questioning why the needed to be locked up so early in the day.  I never received a response.  Yesterday was our annual event and again I heard the elephants were locked up.  I don’t know if you have even been to Buffalo; we have long, cold winters.  It’s so upsetting to hear these social creatures can’t enjoy being outside.  

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