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Comment Archives: stories: News & Opinion: Editorial

Re: “Editorial

I salute the Weekly for calling this out. Let me offer the animal lovers (read: sane people) here an alternative to zoos.

It's summertime in Tucson, and while I love it here the dry heat shrivels the patience and the shoreline sings its siren song. My family and I go San Diego as often as we can. It's a day's drive for a completely different world from the desert. Years ago, though we'd just seen Blackfish and skipped Sea World, we took our daughter to the San Diego Zoo. It's enormous, it's beautiful, it's rightfully world famous for its presentation, and it's still captivity.

What really got me was the silverback gorilla behind the plexiglass. Technically he's safer in a plastic box than at home with poachers sizing him up, but I really thought about him. How did he get here? Does he suffer in this endless performance? Why do we do this?

Here's another creature capable of language and I had no idea how to speak to him. I felt compelled to put my palm against the glass, to meet his eyes and in some way apologize for the absurdity of it all. So we don't go there now. The best zoo in the world, with the best keepers and enclosures, is still a hostage situation.

That may rattle you, and I understand why. I loved the zoo as a kid, and it remains the only way to see the animals we've mostly pushed off the world. The topic of conservation is too nuanced for a layman like myself to make a call on where the line is drawn between salvation and show business. The spectacle is undeniably magnetic, for we all yearn for connection with the web of life. Intention aside, there is such a clear disconnect in our behavior.

People know in some distant way that zoos are full of slaves. We won't leave a dog in a car but a polar bear in a swimming pool is judged acceptable. Thousands of human beings with loving hearts and functioning minds somehow spend all day admiring animals and stop to eat a few on the way out without a second thought. The way we treat animals is just one of those enormous problems we pretend isn't happening. The elephant in the room has been turned into tacky end tables and scrimshaw knick-knacks.

Sanctuaries, on the other hand, represent a different road for disenfranchised animals, and we were thrilled to discover one not far from San Diego in Alpine. Lions, Tigers and Bears is a great operation that aims to provide a haven for big cats and others rescued from the horrors of the exotic animal trade. We were told of cut-rate breeding farms in squalid trailer parks, rich kids abandoning their pets (like the old alligator myths but true and shocking), and sickening practices like fur and "predator urine" farms. Reality was not sugar coated.

Yet what we saw were not haggard, suffering beasts lumbering through concrete mirages. These cats and bears are healthy, happy and clearly loved. Our guide hand-fed each one with a long tool that kept both parties secure. Not a one was without shelter, shade, and above all, room to roam. Their stories all had happy endings because of the tireless work of the site's proprietor and her dedicated staff. The tour ran long for the parents of toddlers, but the experience was worth every penny once we saw exactly where the money was going.

Lions, Tigers and Bears states their mission as follows:

"Lions Tigers & Bears is dedicatedto providing a safe haven to abused and abandoned exotic animals while inspiring an educational forum to end the exotic animal trade."

They deliver this and more. I heartily recommend and encourage anyone interested in the welfare of animals and the witnessing of redemption for these long-suffering animals who deserve our compassion and stewardship to visit this sanctuary. For more information, visit their website:

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by ApocalypseFatigue on 07/26/2017 at 11:33 PM

Re: “Editorial

And here we are, DRDOOLITTLE, years later, and Connie is dead. They separated her and Shaba in San Diego, and Connie soon thereafter died from a compound of illnesses due to a lifetime of captivity on a half acre. The story I heard through the grapevine was SD Zoo staff had the decency to bring Shaba in to be with her during her last moments. And as she passed, people there (who I probably don't like much, but nonetheless) claim Shaba put forth the most mournful cry. I still get super teared up and it kills me that we were not successful at moving them to a sanctuary instead, together. We tried so hard. For literally years, and over two campaigns.

We are doing elephants a tremendous disservice by keeping them in any form of captivity for profit. If you have any doubt about that, watch An Apology to Elephants:…

There's nothing extreme about me other than my compassion, ZOO FAN. Maybe one day you'll have some.

1 like, 2 dislikes
Posted by Colleen Dugan on 09/29/2015 at 12:00 PM

Re: “Prezelski

Don't understand the above comment's logic, much less the bad grammar. I'm not understanding why a relative by marriage's record has anything to do with someone's job. Is the brother-in-law working at a school there?

Like the column, though. Seems to be a clear-headed look at what's become a local soap opera.

Posted by nunaurbiz on 10/04/2013 at 3:53 PM

Re: “Prezelski

"Can't we all just get along....:Sorry Tom. When SUSD hires and keeps a district head who is a train wreck what do you expect. Guess you wrote this before the world found out his brother in law who is a felon. Guess its OK to sell dope and then work with kids. Would SUSD hire a teacher with a record like that? I doubt it.

5 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by fraser007 on 10/03/2013 at 7:27 AM

Re: “Editorial

"...locally grown greens..." Ya mean like the volunteer who gave the giraffes the oleander branches that killed one & damn near killed a second one? Yeah...real warm that one was.

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Im Bulldozer on 01/12/2012 at 4:19 PM

Re: “Editorial

Have you seen the recent video on Wimp of the two elephants reunited after nearly 25 yaers. Very touching. Our zoo, of course, is going in the opposite direction.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by AZRLS on 01/04/2012 at 9:46 PM

Re: “Editorial

Well, at least Reid Park Zoo gives their giraffes fresh-cut locally grown greens. Warms the cockles of my heart.

0 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Bob on 01/04/2012 at 1:39 PM

Re: “Editorial

fraud fraud fraud! Throw all involved in a human zoo (jail)!

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by BURNIE MAK on 01/03/2012 at 11:42 AM

Re: “Editorial

Great article, thanks for looking at this from the elephants perspective. Animals don't live in zoos, they die in zoos. However you spin it, it's captivity. And breeding in captivity for captivity is immoral and unethical.
Animals are not commodities, they are moral equals.

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by Mo Orr on 12/30/2011 at 11:49 PM

Re: “Editorial

I have been professionally involved with zoos for more than 40 years (director of Seattle's Zoo and of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum) and am increasingly of the view that thanks in large part to the AZA and to the rise of marketers in their decision making processes, zoos are becoming increasingly irrelevant, and are heading into a cul de sac of their own making.
The vitriolic way they have responded to the emergence of the two superb Elephant Sanctuaries in Tennessee and California is clear evidence of the depth of their lack of ethics. Sadly, we need some sort of public natural history institution to help encourage our urban and suburban citizenry to develop greater respect for and appreciation of Nature, but zoos — which have such potential in this regard — are moving further and further away from achieving this.
For the past ten years I have focused on the needs of captive elephants, and based upon what I have learned, especially from researchers of wild elephant behaviors and social structures, I am strongly convinced that urban zoos can not begin to meet the complex needs of these extremely intelligent and naturally vigorous beings.
It is a great encouragement to read the Weekly's Editorial. Just a decade ago something like this would never have been published. Progress is definitely being made. The zoo, however, are not only fighting it, but walking backwards.

3 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by David Hancocks on 12/30/2011 at 9:54 PM

Re: “Editorial

Wonderful, well researched article! Thank you to the writers who spent the time to get the real facts. Elephants are sentient beings, just like humans in so many ways, with their tight family bonds, compassion, and emotions. Seeing them in circuses and zoos grieves me greatly. I implore this zoo to fulfill their obligations to these 2 wonderful elephants, and send them to a sanctuary.

3 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Barbara Trask Lovett on 12/30/2011 at 6:45 PM

Re: “Editorial

"…Stress…in animals or humans…. Chronic or traumatic stress can…impair genes involved in neuron and synapse generation…compromised immunology, and other physical problems.... --Dr. Gay Bradshaw

The science is HERE! Don’t kill these elephants!

5 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by H. Jones on 12/29/2011 at 7:00 PM

Re: “Editorial

The fact that monies were raised with the promise of keeping these elephants together constitutes fraud. Shame on the zoo officials for lying to the public to raise money. Sadly I believe both Connie and Shaba will not survive this "mad adventure" the "brilliant" people at the zoo have planned. My heart aches that these animals have been sentenced to death and the well meaning donors have unwittingly contributed to their demise. Also the AZA should be exposed for the corrupt money hungry organization it is. I am disgusted with all of this. Thank you.

8 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Dituck on 12/29/2011 at 6:24 PM

Re: “Editorial

Excellent, excellent editorial. What would make fascinating reading is an investigation into the ties between circuses (especially Feld/Ringling) and zoos.

5 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Amy Mayers on 12/29/2011 at 5:31 PM

Re: “Editorial

If you want to read more about the horrific story of the four San Diego elephants, of their transport and relocation to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and Caldwell Zoo in Tyler TX the link is below. Again, the poor elephants, as slaves once were, have no say in their lives, where they go or who they are with. The death of Wankie enroute is especially egregious. There is no scare tactic here, this is what happens when their adult lives, not cute babies anymore, are in the hands of those with hubris.… (Even if the public can't stomach to read it, it is more food for fodder for the reporters of this paper who are willing to do their research.)

6 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Tory Braden on 12/29/2011 at 5:19 PM

Re: “Editorial

Thank you to the writer and editor of this article. You took the responsible route and very clearly outlined the issues facing elephants in zoos and in particular the plight of Connie and Shaba. Thank you also for cutting through to the less attractive aspects of the aza. They very clearly are using their animals strictly for profit with little concern for their welfare. To separate these long time companions, reverse their story about their connection and pursue a risky transfer is shameful to say the least. Thank you again for a well written article.

7 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Jessica Kavanagh Thibodeau on 12/29/2011 at 5:10 PM

Re: “Editorial

What a pantload...the AZA needs to be disbanded & has needed to be for 25 years. They're nothing but a bunch of wildeyed politicos, every bit as much as the HSUS bigwhigs are. Also, this current crop of Reid Park Zoo 'administrators' (everybody higher than Sr Keepers in the hierarchy) need to be dropped headfirst down one of the abandoned mineshafts west of town. It's a damned shame Ivo Poglayan is so old. He was the best thing that ever happened to that zoo as adminstrator from mid 70s to mid or late 80s. I never liked the guy, but it's also too bad Mike FLint took an early retirement package to get out from under-he was the 2nd best thing that ever happened to that zoo! All the BS started when Steve McKusker took over after Ivo retired & Flint jumped ship & has gotten nothing but worse over time. I'm an ex VP of Docents (before the city took them over & ruined that element of the zoo as well) & know well of what I speak!

12 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Tim Morin on 12/29/2011 at 4:08 PM

Re: “Editorial

If Connie and Shaba both die of grief within a year of being separated can the officials at Greed Park Zoo be accused of Murder since they were warned that it would happen. Are the officials at Greed Park Zoo so mentally deficient and morally bankrupt that they would separate Connie and Shaba after 40 years especially since the zoo used the emotional link between the elephants to extort millions of dollars from concerned citizens to keep the two together. Why don't the officials at the Greed Park Zoo take their degrees to the Chicago Stock Yards where their murder of innocent animals wont be noticed by anybody and they can kill to their hearts content without any criticism from the public.

16 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by tuwebenego on 12/29/2011 at 3:39 PM

Re: “Editorial

OMG!!! Finally someone in the media "gets it." Thank You!

Though the AZA is fighting for the life of the elephants it trades because of the rising popularity and righteousness of progressive sanctuaries, it has not stopped this animal broker from forcing zoos to have breeding programs in order to keep accreditation - more captive elephants is the name of the game here, not survival of the species. If the AZA was to be interested in that, they would be donating to anti-poaching and anti-smuggling organizations which go wanting while criminal gangs exterminate almost every species for China's literal appetite. But they are not contributing to the actual survival of the species, they are contributing to themselves. The AZA bully tactic is to threaten to withdraw accreditation as they did to Detroit, with Toronto Zoo being the latest to make their zoo director paranoid - this after the AZA claiming what stars zoos both had been.

However, if this paper really wants a Pulitzer, delve into the murk of the relationship between the AZA and the USDA/APHIS, Animal Care office under Chester Gipson. The word alleged really does not need to be used because the AZA has publicly stated that Animal Care should adopt the AZA's protocols, and so Animal Care has. Gipson must approve every transfer of an elephant (circus or zoo), including Connie & Shaba. But it blindly goes along with what the AZA wants. Gipson's lack of enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act truly warrants a congressional investigation which is about the only thing to get his office to straighten up and fly right. Representative Jim Moran has had to introduce bill HR 3359 in order to stop the egregious length of time circus animals must travel all year long. None of it for the welfare of the animals to which the act states it must be complied.

In the case of Tina & Jewel, very elderly & overused Asian circus elephants, though sanctuaries offered to take them, Gipson approved a move to San Diego Zoo where the established elephants there did not like them, nor let them integrate. They spent most of their time in their "garage with patio." They are now on loan to the LA Zoo where a woman just hopped the fence to "pet" them, thanks to good design of a brand new enclosure. What is interesting here is KTLA reported several times that the woman got into the "sanctuary." Is this the new AZA spin, that zoos are sanctuaries? Screaming kids with their obnoxious noise and the lack of privacy 12/7 disqualify any zoo as a sanctuary. Sanctuaries are places of peace and quiet of mind, plus the most important ingredient, space which no zoo, redesigned or not, can provide.

In the case of Connie & Shaba the cavalier attitude of zoo officials and the AZA is astounding considering not just the aggressiveness to Tina & Jewel in the Asian compound, but the fact that an African was just killed by another African in San Diego. Normally when there is an attack in the wild the elephant can get away, but in a zoo it has nowhere to go (18 elephants crammed in 6 acres). Shaba will be the one on the outs and just as much a shock to her to have unhappy strangers in the midst. The lesson should have been learned when the African elephants were captured in Swaziland and sent to San Diego. In order to make room the SD zoo sent their two Africans, Tatima & Peaches to Lincoln Park Zoo Chicago, much decried by elephant behaviorists and vets. Within 2 years both died when they could have been in a sanctuary, especially PAWS in CA with similar weather.

There appears to be no bounds of hubris by the 1%ers when 99% of the public understands that this bonded pair should be able to stay together.

20 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Tory Braden on 12/29/2011 at 3:39 PM

Re: “Editorial

Take me and leave the elephants alone.
If you think that the bonds elephants form over time are any less than what humans form, then take your PhD's and place them "where the sun don't shine."
By separating these elephants after 40 years of being together, you are significantly increasing their probability of death......It's akin to survival rate after one spouse dies....

23 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by DrDooLittle on 12/29/2011 at 2:13 PM

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