Zoo elephants get pals or get going!   »

Starting in 2016, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will require room for three elephants (or two if they are both male) if a zoo wants to keep their revered AZA accreditation:

Each zoo holding elephants must hold a minimum of three females (or the space to hold three females), two males or three elephants of mixed gender. If a zoo cannot meet this standard, they must apply for a variance. Before the variance can be issued by the Accreditation Commission the zoo (a) must describe their plan to obtain additional elephants or describe their plan for deacquisitioning their elephants and (b) must describe what will occur if they experience the loss of one elephant. In most cases where an institution has one remaining elephant, the remaining elephant will receive a recommendation for relocation at another AZA institution from the Elephant TAG/SSP. Adult males (6 years and older) may be housed alone, but not in complete isolation. Opportunities for tactile, olfactory, visual, and/or auditory interaction with other elephants must be provided (Rasmussen et al. 1982).
By 1 September 2016, no further variances will be issue

This is because they know elephants are social animals and need friends! The new standard requires three elephants so that if one elephant dies, the other is not left alone. Jeez, a sole elephant in a zoo is so depressing.

This is nice news for the poor elephants stuck in zoos, but do you know why else this is cool? This means a lot of zoos just won’t be able to have any elephants! I’m sure most will be traded to other zoos with enough room for three, but maybe some will be sent to sanctuaries! We can hope. At the very least, the elephants in captivity will have a higher quality of life as socialization is very important to them

I don’t know much about the AZA; they seem like a confused organization. Of course I don’t support zoos, but if there are going to be zoos, I do support animal care and welfare standards. The AZA proudly claims to have (and seems to have) much higher care standards than the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, and they oppose things like the use of apes in commercials and bullhooks for elephant training. Meanwhile, they accredited Have Trunk Will Travel, a company that trains animal “actors” and also uses bullhooks on its elephants. That doesn’t make much sense. Then again, they are very involved in wildlife conservation and promote the idea that all zoos should be donating to efforts to conserve animals in the wild. Yet they are also super pro-zoo and act like zoos are sanctuaries and education centers instead of animal-exploiting businesses. 

I don’t know what to make of the AZA, but I do like this new rule. Let the ellies have pals!

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