Animal welfare group places Utah’s Hogle Zoo among 10 worst for elephant care; Zoo disputes assessment

Elephants at Utah's Hogle Zoo. Photo: Gephardt Daily/Kurt Walter

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Jan. 24, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — An animal welfare group that published its list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants has placed Utah’s Hogle Zoo at No. 8.

Hogle Zoo disagrees with the assessment, and has expressed concerns about the report.

The group that produced the list is In Defense of Animals, which says it is an international protection organization with more than 250,000 supporters and a 30-year history of animal advocacy. The group does not list specific criteria for rating zoos.

Most of the issues In Defense of Animals raises concerning Hogle Zoo are related to the small number of elephants, two, and to the habitat in which the mother-daughter duo is kept.

“Utah’s Hogle Zoo has kept African elephants Christie and her 10-year-old calf Zuri in an exhibit all by themselves since 2015 when their companion Dari died,” the In Defense of Animals statement says, in part.

“Holding elephants in small, unnatural groupings is one of the worst cruelties imaginable for this social species. The herd dynamic forms the very core of elephant life and is essential to meeting their deep need for emotionally rich and deeply complex social structures. For elephants, living without a herd is the definition of loneliness and an empty life.”

Hogle Zoo disputes the statement.

“Utah’s Hogle Zoo disagrees with the organization, In Defense of Animals, and its assessment of our elephant program,” says a statement released by Hogle Zoo spokeswoman Erica Hansen.

“Our well-trained team of experts does an excellent job caring for our elephants on a daily basis — monitoring their daily activities, training, enrichment and veterinary needs,” Hansen said.

“The Zoo is working closely with AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and the SSP (Species Survival Plan) to increase the size of our herd, but that takes time.”

The elephants do socialize, Hansen said.

“Elephants are a social species and they have great interactions with each other, their keepers and the community.”

In Defense of Animals’ statement also cites the lack of species-appropriate landscape, roaming space and diverse ecosystem, along with the winter temperatures and Utah’s elevation as inappropriate for the elephants.

“The Zoo, unwilling to acknowledge how wrong it is to keep elephants in cold Utah, instead confines Christie and Zuri inside barns for much of their lives.”

Hogle Zoo’s statement says improvements are planned.

“The yards in Elephant Encounter feature overhead heaters and heated concrete for year-round comfort. Most days of the year the elephants are outside and other days they’re given the option to be inside or outside and they’ll choose outside. They have been known to ‘play’ in the snow,” the statement says.

“Our current master plan calls for a greater investment in elephants — with bigger barn, additional yards, and large walking paths. We are committed to the species,” Hansen’s statement says.

To read the full statement by In Defense of Animals, click here.

To read more about Hogle Zoo, check out its website.

The full list of zoos ranked among the In Defense of Animals worst 10, for a variety of cited reasons, follows:

1. Pittsburgh Zoo, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2. Zoo Miami, Miami, Florida

3. Bronx Zoo, Bronx, New York

4. Oregon Zoo, Portland, Oregon

5. Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Kentucky

6. Natural Bridge Zoo, Natural Bridge, Virginia

7. Edmonton Valley Zoo, Alberta, Canada

8. Hogle Zoo, Salt Lake City

9. San Diego Zoo Global, San Diego, California

10. Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Syracuse, New York


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