Topeka Zoo Urged to Close Elephant Exhibit

Zoo controversy continues as elephants suffer in inadequate display

San Rafael, Calif., December 16, 2009 – Zoo watchdog organization In Defense of Animals (IDA) is urging the city of Topeka to close the Topeka Zoo’s elephant exhibit. IDA recommends the closure as a necessary part of the city’s efforts to improve animal welfare at the highly troubled institution, where several animals have died in recent years. In a letter sent to City Manager & CEO Norton Bonaparte today, IDA calls for sending the elephants to a facility far better suited to their needs, such as a spacious, natural-habitat sanctuary.

“IDA is deeply concerned that the elephants at the Topeka Zoo are living in woefully inadequate conditions that fail to meet their most basic needs, including room to roam, large social groups, and an appropriate climate,” said Catherine Doyle, IDA captive elephant specialist. “IDA urges the City to close the elephant exhibit and divert the vast resources required for elephant care to improving the welfare of many more animals at the Topeka Zoo.”

Zoo records indicate that both elephants suffer chronic foot disorders that zoo industry experts acknowledge are caused by lack of space and movement, and hard surfaces such as concrete. The elephant Sunda suffers “deterioration of digits” (bones) in one front foot, and displays abnormal repetitive rocking, a sign of stress and poor welfare. The elephants – one of whom is Asian and the other African – have acted aggressively toward one another, resulting in injuries, likely due to differences between the two species.

The Topeka Zoo provides only three-quarters of an acre for the elephants, who, in the wild, would walk tens of miles a day. Cold weather further compounds the problem, as elephants are forced indoors into tiny cages for the majority of Topeka’s long, freezing winters, greatly restricting movement necessary for good health.

According to IDA, elephants are the most expensive and challenging animals to keep in a zoo, where they require intensive maintenance, especially of the feet, due to lack of space for movement.

To date, 18 zoos have closed or will close their elephant exhibits, including major urban zoos in Chicago, New York, Detroit, Anchorage, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

For more information, visit

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

4 Comments on “Topeka Zoo Urged to Close Elephant Exhibit”

  • Meredith Buist wrote on 16 December, 2009, 12:34

    All of the zoo and circus elephants need to be rescued and removed from these environments. The bottom line and the priority is the welfare of the animal. I’m afraid too often it’s money. Why should they continue to suffer because of human ignorance?

  • Isabel wrote on 16 December, 2009, 12:42

    Por favor no utilicen más a los animales como diversión. Ellos tienen derecho a su dignidad y a vivir en su hábitat natural.

  • Alicia wrote on 16 December, 2009, 17:28

    This is disgusting that elephants are having to exist like this. They are slowly killing the by letting them live in these conditions.
    Keeping elephants as zoo exhibits has no place in the modern world.

  • Shonessi wrote on 9 January, 2010, 21:42

    I agree w/ Alicia and Meredith!!!!!!! Do right by the elephants and send them to a sanctuary and let them their lives in peace w/o harm and pain. Is it is the right thing to do!! Animals are not ours to dominate over. Just b/c we do dominate over them, doesn’t make it right! Animals are NOT our property!!!

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