In Defense of Animals Urges Central Florida Zoo to Send Elephant to Sanctuary

San Rafael, Calif. – In Defense of Animals (IDA) today sent a letter to Central Florida Zoo CEO Joe Montisano, urging him to retire the zoo’s sole Asian elephant Maude to a spacious, natural habitat sanctuary. The call follows the death of Mary this week at age 63. In the past the zoo has indicated that when one of the elephants died, it would consider relocating the other.

“The Central Florida Zoo has an important decision to make for Maude,” said IDA’s elephant campaign director Catherine Doyle. “Will Maude spend the remainder of her days in a small, unnatural zoo exhibit, or a spacious, natural habitat sanctuary where she would have room to roam, the companionship of other Asian elephants, and a permanent home?”

The zoo’s small and outdated elephant exhibit can only hold two elephants and lacks the space and natural conditions that elephants need to thrive. While the zoo could opt to acquire a second elephant, it is unlikely because it would still not be compliant with elephant standards set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that require zoos hold no less than three female elephants.

In the letter to Montisano, IDA raised concerns about sending Maude to another zoo because of the possibility that she may not integrate with new cage-mates and could be moved yet again to another zoo, or be forced to live segregated from other elephants. Because sanctuaries have greater space, elephants integrate easily into social groups and soon form lasting bonds with companions of their own choosing.

The two leading U.S. sanctuaries, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and PAWS in California, have set the standard for the care of captive elephants by providing spacious and complex environments that give elephants the space they need for movement, large social groups, and high quality veterinary care. All the elephants living in sanctuaries spent many years in captivity, like Maude, and all have made the transition to this more natural environment.

Eleven AZA-accredited zoos have sent elephants to sanctuaries, including zoos in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Detroit. No AZA-accredited zoo that has sent an elephant to a sanctuary has lost its accreditation for doing so.

“Maude has spent her life on public display, the last 27 years of it at the Central Florida Zoo,” concluded Doyle. “Relocation to a sanctuary is the most reasonable and humane choice for her, one we are sure the public will support as it will give Maude the highest quality of life possible.”

Dr. Elliot Katz, IDA’s President and a veterinarian, added “At Maude’s age, if she stays in a zoo she’s likely to develop arthritis or other health complications, due to lack of space for exercise and standing on hard surfaces like concrete. Arthritis is a painful and potentially deadly condition for an elephant. A sanctuary provides the soft soil, space and exercise that elephants need to stay healthy.”

Read IDA’s letter to the Central Florida Zoo. For more information, visit

March 5, 2010

Contact: Catherine Doyle,, 323-301-5730

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

20 Comments on “In Defense of Animals Urges Central Florida Zoo to Send Elephant to Sanctuary”

  • Jennifer Cross wrote on 11 March, 2010, 19:54

    PLEASE retire Maude, the Asian elephant, to a natural habitat. She deserves to live out her life in a spacious area with others of her kind, where she can roam and enjoy the rest of her life. Thank you

  • helen freedman wrote on 16 April, 2010, 5:51

    Please send Maude, the Asian elephant, to a natural habitat. It is cruel to keep her without any other elephants. She deserves to live out the rest of her life in a place where she can roam with other elephants. Thank you.

  • Paddy wrote on 20 April, 2010, 5:16

    This should be an easy decision. We humans are supposed to be compassionate. It is long overdue and now Maude must go to the sanctuary. She has spent most of her life as a zoo animal to profit the Central Florida Zoo. When are we going to stop exploiting lower life forms for our own amusement and personal gain? An animal as intelligent as the elephant does not belong caged. DO THE RIGHT THING NOW ( CENTRAL FLORIDA ZOO )

  • Tana Halstead wrote on 30 April, 2010, 13:16

    Please let these elephants live out their lives in a sanctuary-this is horrible!!!!!!!

  • Cinzia wrote on 13 May, 2010, 15:24

    I do not know what to say! Humans treat elephants with cruelty keeping them in zoos and circus. Let them go!

  • louise wrote on 29 May, 2010, 16:40

    It is so sad to see this beautifull elephant just swaying from side to side, the fact that it has no companionship and lives in such a small space is heartbreaking. Please send her to the elephant sanctuary so she can be free again!!

  • Patricia M. Bordewieck wrote on 28 June, 2010, 5:02

    PLEASE send Queenie to a sanctuary where she can at last roam and interact with other elephanta – why should an innocent animal be in solitary confinement as though she is a criminal? We don’t even treat murderers in our prisons that way! I can only imagine her suffering all of these years. PLEASE let her go!
    thank you.

  • Patricia M. Bordewieck wrote on 28 June, 2010, 5:04

    Sorry, Re my previous ;post: I’ve been writing in support of about the elephant Queenie so long that I used her name instead of Maude’s.

  • Lisa Thompson wrote on 29 July, 2010, 4:30

    Please do as you promised! She has done her time, retire her to live out the rest of her life in a more humane way!!!! PLEASE!!! Let her have part of her life back, it’s the least you can do for her. Thank you!

  • Genoveva wrote on 23 September, 2010, 18:08

    Mankind are the worst enemy of innocents animals, mankind are predators, inhumane, shameless, and with a lock of mercy that someday will turn around, and teach them, they are not masters, but miserable creatures who take up to themselves to torture and kill, what those acting as parasites don’t have the power to bring back to life. In the meanwhile many put animals trough undeserving hell, and farther more cynical…they call themselves humans

  • jo wrote on 30 September, 2010, 17:37

    Elephants are beautiful majestic animals..they do not belong in a zoo or in a circus doing stupid moronic tricks to amuse human beings that are too ignorant to realise it is wrong. Please stop this! I think nowadays more people would actually go to circuses if they DID NOT use animals!

  • Alexis Mohr wrote on 11 November, 2010, 17:03

    How can there continue to be a question about the freedom and dignity of these wonderful creatures?

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