In Defense of Animals Cites Unprecedented Death Toll in Letter to Board

San Rafael, Calif. (December 10, 2009) - The international zoo watchdog group In Defense of Animals has sent a letter to the Toronto Zoo Board of Management calling for an end to the Zoo's ill-fated elephant exhibit in which four elephants have died prematurely in less than four years. At today's meeting, the Board is expected to discuss whether to bring new elephants into the exhibit or close it altogether.

"Elephants at the Toronto Zoo are dying at an unprecedented rate," said IDA captive elephant specialist Catherine Doyle. "The Toronto Zoo and the Board of Management can no longer ignore the mounting death toll or scientific evidence of the devastating effects of captivity on elephants. The exhibit must be shut down now before more elephants die."

Tara, age 41, died suddenly in November, leaving only three elephants and bringing the Zoo to a crossroads in an elephant program that has seen its elephants all die prematurely. The four elephants who died since 2006 ranged from 38 to 41 years, an age at which elephants are considered to be in their prime. The Zoo's own web site claims elephants have "a potential lifespan of 55 to 70 years."

In its letter to Board Chairman Raymond Cho, IDA urged the Board to reject a proposed $40 million elephant exhibit renovation and instead relocate the remaining elephants to a spacious, natural- habitat sanctuary that can better meet their needs. The group says that even with a costly renovation, the exhibit still will be woefully inadequate. The plan currently is unfunded.

Citing recent scientific developments and leading elephant authorities, IDA says the Toronto Zoo lacks the space and natural conditions necessary for elephants to live healthier and longer lives. Cold weather compounds the problem, as elephants are forced indoors into tiny cages for the majority of long, freezing winters, greatly restricting movement necessary to good health.

IDA's letter to Board Chairman Cho is available upon request.

For more information, please visit helpelephants.com.

Catherine Doyle, 323-301-5370
Suzanne Roy, 919-697-9389

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


  • Meredith Buist wrote on 10 December, 2009, 10:44

    Until every elephant in captivity is rescued and living in am appropriate sanctuary we will not rest this issue. It is imperative that the world learns that elephants cannot live in confined conditions such as zoos or be forced to preform in circus acts etc.. This is cruel and hightly stressfull to these animals. They require all of our efforts to get them out of these horrible environments.

  • Miguel Avila wrote on 11 December, 2009, 3:08

    I attended the Toronto ZOO board meeting yesterday. They were more entrenched in giving attention to the “Pandas” project rather than to deal with an urgent matter such as the death of a recent elephant and their future in captivity.

    I met two gentlemen at the meeting. Because I am the target of intimidation by the ZOO management I tried as much as possible keep in a low profile and not speak a lot since they were closing watching me and to avoid being denied future access.

    At the end of the meeting the Chairman of the Board did not allow the Two gentlemen to speak on behalf of the Elephants rather he was being apologetic and blah , blah.

    It is a misfortune that this happened yesterday. I am really ashamed of the ZOO board actions.

    I am willing to take up the matter of the Elephants in a next meeting of the ZOO board on January 22 2010. via a deputation. Please contact me for further details.

    My contact is: havila@netscape.ca


    Miguel Avila


  • Alicia wrote on 15 December, 2009, 8:25

    Elephants  are intelligent creatures needing stimulation and freedom. Kept in captivity like this the poor things loose the will to go on and die way too early.

  • Momma wrote on 28 January, 2010, 9:16

    To Miguel,

    The picture of Che Gueverra is inflammatory and scares the heck out of me that animal activists will be identified as terrorists.  If this is how you are representing us, it sets our objectives back to having to defend ourselves as caring people and not egregious radicals..  

  • G. Brown wrote on 15 February, 2010, 10:26

    I was shocked to hear of the recent death of another elephant at Toronto Zoo. I disagree with the zoo director’s rationale for refusing to shut down the exhibit permanently. While the elephants are a very popular attraction for visitors I believe that \the zoo has a responsibility to educate people about the long term negative effects of keeping elephants in inadequate and strssful environments. If more people understood exactly how confinement in an unnatural environment affects the physical and psychnological well being of these magnificent creatures then I am sure they would support relocating the elephants to a more humane environment.

  • Greer Hart wrote on 22 April, 2010, 14:25

    My comment relates to the Toronto Zoo exhimit and the loss of 4 elephants in 4 years due to their confinement through long Canadian winters. Canada has a dreadful reputation for environmental and animal abuse issues, e.g. the Alberta Tar Sands, the seal hunts, the treatment of indigenous peoples. Can no person in the Canadian Government see that the future will not exist for we humans if we continue the way we are doing, with no worthwhile ethical policy for the treatment of animals and indigenous peoples.

    Mr Greer Hart, the Scottish Tree Trust, Glasgow, Scotland

  • amanda wrote on 7 August, 2010, 7:42

    Thanks to IDA for speaking out about Toronto Zoo elephant death. I would like to know however why IDA did not continue to speak out and support Jenny the elephant at the Dallas Zoo. Her case is extremely sad and frustrating. She has been kept in confined quarters for many years and over-medicated to the point that even federal inspectors protested. Now a corporation owns the Dallas Zoo and have claimed that the additional acres provided have solved Jenny’s problems. In actuality Jenny has severe psychological problems and is being kept separated, still. An elephant sanctuary has been ready to take Jenny, but  Dallas zoo management continues to want ‘control’. Im not clear on why IDA would drop this case given IDA’s long standing record of animal rights interests. Thanks

  • Catherine King wrote on 12 August, 2010, 15:13

    Elephants DO NOT belong in zoos; they belong in their natural habitats. The next best option is to release them to a sanctuary south of the border.Our long & cold winters mean that the Elephants must be kept indoors for many many months. There is nothing educational or otherwise about keeping these creatures in a habitat that is only harmful to them.

    This is animal cruelty.

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