As the problems surrounding captivity in zoos continue to make headlines, recent events at the Oregon Zoo highlight more ongoing issues that range from a growing death toll to the zoo breaking promises and refusing to do what’s right for its residents – giving us yet more reasons to avoid visiting.
Six Critically Endangered Monkeys Die Two Days After Arriving
After only two days at the zoo, six of nine cotton-top tamarin monkeys who arrived from Harvard University in Boston died mysteriously. While an investigation is being conducted into the cause of their death, a veterinarian for the zoo told the Portland Tribune that although it’s odd so many died at once, he believes they may have been “overly stressed from the trip.”
Cotton-top tamarins are listed as critically endangered on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species and there are believed to be only 6,000 individuals left in the wild in Columbia. Their main threat now is habitat loss.
Orangutan Dies From “Sloppy“ Mistakes
In January, Kutai, the zoo’s 20-year-old Sumatran orangutan, died from what were found to be “sloppy” errors on the part of veterinary staff. The Portland Tribune reported that a review concluded that standard operating procedures and best practices were not followed, lapses in procedures and protocols were tolerated and that reports about what really happened were inaccurate.
According to the Oregonian, an investigation was prompted by an anonymous tip that eventually led to the dismissal of zoo director Kim Smith and senior veterinarian Mitch Finnegan earlier this spring. Kutai was also the second orangutan to die after illness and surgery in four years following the death of Batik, a 22-year-old female.
Zoo Breaks Promises, Refuses to Release Packy and Move its Other Elephants
Questions surrounding the ethics of confining elephants in zoos around the U.S. continue to be raised while their advocates call for an end to elephant exhibits. The Oregon Zoo is no stranger to criticism and has been in the spotlight of elephant advocates for years, making In Defense of Animals’ Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list in 2013 for the fifth time. While many zoos have shut their elephants exhibits down, or are phasing them out, the Oregon Zoo has broken promises to voters and refuses to let its elephants go.
Elephant advocates are now working to see the zoo’s questionable breeding program shut down and the eight elephants moved to a sanctuary. In 2008, officials got support from voters by leading them to believe it would build an offsite reserve, but backtracked on promises in 2011 and instead announced a plan to build an offsite center where it would start an aggressive breeding program, which elephant advocates fear will mean working with zoos and circuses.
The zoo already became the center of a controversy surrounding the birth of a calf when the public became aware that the baby was technically owned by Have Trunk Will Travel – a company that uses elephants in entertainment and has a history of abuse.
Then there’s Packy, the oldest living elephant in captivity in North America. According to Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants, ” Over the course of his 52 years in captivity, he has suffered from a variety of illnesses and conditions including the pain of chronic foot problems, foot injuries, recurring skin lesions on the side of his head from sleeping on a cement floor‚ and an active, life threatening form of tuberculosis, all of which are directly related to his captivity.”
With so little time left, his advocates are calling for him to be moved to a sanctuary immediately where he can live out his remaining days in a natural environment in an appropriate climate.
Please sign and share the petition urging the zoo to send its elephant residents to a sanctuary before its too late and help animals who are suffering the physical and psychological effects of captivity in zoos by avoiding them altogether.
Photo credits (all images): Thinkstock