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Oped in the Oregonian
By Guest Columnist Courtney Scott
In a recent opinion piece, ("What Packy Taught Us," Feb. 14), Oregon Zoo Director Don Moore leaves out the most important lesson that Packy provided to the world. Namely, that elephants do not belong in captivity.
They don't belong in circuses - Ringling Bros. has finally admitted that and retired their elephants. And they don't belong in zoos. For nearly all of Packy's 54 years he was confined to a one-acre exhibit with a cement-floored barn and viewing cage. Packy could be seen pacing in his cage and yard, which is similar to how prisoners pace in their cages. Packy's medical records showed that he had arthritis, joint disease, foot disease and for the last three years, tuberculosis. These ailments aren't seen in wild elephants. TB is only seen in elephants who have contact with humans.
However, as Team Packy stated, Packy was not showing signs of suffering from the TB, and elephants can often live a long time with this disease. He was improving after being taken off TB drugs, which were severely affecting his health. So it is debatable that Packy had to be killed at this time. The decision to put him down raises the question of whether the zoo plans to bring in more elephants to replace him. Moore has often spoken about the need to save elephants in Borneo and the zoo even brought over an expert from Borneo to speak about the plight of elephants there.
As to the lessons about elephants that the zoo has learned, there are a number of wild elephant experts who are already informed about the attributes Moore mentions. They have studied elephants where they live in their range countries for many years and know that elephants can communicate with one another through seismic vibrations, exhibit empathy towards other species, are self aware, mourn their dead and show so many more wonderful behaviors. Elephants do not behave the same in captivity as they do in the wild, so what people learn from zoo elephants is not always helpful to understanding how a wild and free elephant lives and behaves.
Oxford researcher Dr. Keith Lindsay said at a recent animal welfare conference that the money that is spent on elephant exhibits in a zoo - for instance the $58 million that taxpayers spent on Elephant Lands - could fund an elephant refuge in Africa for eternity. The same applies to elephant sanctuaries in Southeast Asia.
Confining these massive, highly social and intelligent animals for life to learn a few lessons about their behavior is cruel and inhumane--and unnecessary. Our hope is that Packy's sad life and untimely death will awaken the world to the need to end the breeding of elephants in zoos, so that no more Packys are born into lifetimes in captivity. We also advocate that the Oregon Zoo halt any plans to import more elephants from the wild. The zoo already has an elephant from Malaysia, Chendra, who exhibits profound stereotypical behavior. In Packy's honor, she should be sent to sanctuary. In addition, we strongly urge the zoo to halt its use of bullhooks as many other zoos have already done, including all zoos in California.
We support the Oregon Zoo's program to conserve Northwest species and we encourage the zoo to continue along that path. But it is time for the world to recognize the truth about life and death for elephants in zoos.
Packy deserves that.
Ringling Brothers: the end of an era
August 8, 2016
Does killing wolves save cattle and sheep?
Wolves have been targeted by livestock ranchers for ages. They are routintely shot on the ground or gunned down from helicopters. Despite their still recent delisting from the endangered species list, wolves are again under the gun for their supposed role in killing sheep and cows on rangelands. But is this reputation for predation on lifestock really earned? And are there are other ways to protect sheep and cows other than killing predators such as wolves? National Geographic explores this subject. Why Killing Wolves Might Not Save Livestock
"A new study has found that—paradoxically—killing a wolf can increase the risk that wolves will prey on livestock in the future."
*And something to ponder--what if the number of cattle and sheep being raised for meat was dramatically reduced because there were far fewer meat eaters? Logically, the targeting of wolves and other predators would dramatically diminish.
July 20, 2016
Is it time to close zoos?
Since the death of Harambe the gorilla in the Cincinatti Zoo recently, the internet is afire with calls to close zoos. Are zoos necessary to conserve species? Is confining large exotic animals like elephants a necessary price to pay for educating children about these animals? Here is one article that explores that question by quetioning human entitlement to seeing wild animals in captivity.
September 6, 2015
Why do we have such a powerful connection and appreciation for elephants? This has been true throughout human and elephant history. Maybe because in so many ways, elephants are like us.