These Were the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in 2014

Every year, In Defense of Animals (IDA) releases a list of the Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants that highlights the problems with keeping elephants in captivity and pinpoints which facilities in North America are failing their elephant residents.

This year marks the eleventh consecutive year the list has been released and includes a Top Ten, along with a Dishonorable Mention and an Elephant Hall of Shame, which features “repeat offenders who have made little to no progress improving conditions for elephants.”

“IDA’s 2014 list spotlights zoos representing the most appalling conditions for elephants, emphasizing an extended and egregious history of disregard for elephant care standards and science,” said Toni Frohoff, Ph.D., Elephant & Cetacean Scientist for IDA. “Conservation cannot be used as an excuse for cruelty, especially when we know that elephants bred in captivity will not be released to the wild. The tens of millions of dollars spent keeping elephants in zoos could be used more wisely and compassionately for real conservation.”

Continuing to keep elephants in zoos is a controversial issue, with zoos continuing to claim their residents are well cared for and that keeping them contributes to conservation efforts. Yet as the number of African and Asian elephants continues to decline at an alarming rate in the wild, advocates for captive elephants continue to argue that keeping them in zoos isn’t doing anything to save the species.

It’s also been established that elephants do poorly in captivity. Captive elephants have significantly shorter lifespans than elephants in the wild, are prone to a host of physical and psychological problems and have their emotional needs ignored as some are kept in continued isolation or split up from others they’ve bonded with as they’re moved between facilities due to breeding and loan agreements. The problems that come with keeping elephants, even with the best of intentions, point to the need for better in situ conservation efforts, not more captivity.

This year at least brings welcome news that, after being featured seven times, the Woodland Park Zoo is no longer included in the list because it has officially announced plans to close its elephant exhibit – bringing it in line with 29 other zoos that have already closed their exhibits or are working on closing them.

However, it’s been given the distinction of Dishonorable Mention because it has so far stubbornly refused to send its two remaining Asian elephants, Bamboo and Chai, to a sanctuary where they can live out their days in a more appropriate environment, and instead insists on moving them to another zoo.

After appearing on the list four times, this year the Edmonton Valley Zoo in Canada was inducted into the Hall of Shame for its poor management of its lone elephant Lucy. According to IDA, not only is Lucy being kept in isolation in violation of Alberta’s Zoo Standards, but she is also being kept in inappropriately cold temperatures. The zoo has refused offers from veterinary experts to help diagnose a mysterious condition zoo officials claim is keeping her from traveling to a new facility, while at the same time insisting she is healthy and happy there.

The rest of the worst offenders on 2014′s list include:

1. Natural Bridge Zoo – Natural Bridge, Va.
2. San Antonio Zoo – San Antonio, Texas
3. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – Vallejo, Calif.
4. Buttonwood Park Zoo – Bedford, Mass.
5. Bronx Zoo – Bronx, N.Y.
6. Buffalo Zoo – Buffalo, N.Y.
7. Wildlife Safari – Winston, Oreg.
8. Milwaukee County Zoo – Milwaukee, Wis.
9. Rosamond Gifford Zoo – Syracuse, N.Y.
10. Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

For more info on why we should avoid facilities that keep elephants and how to help those in captivity, check out IDA’s Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list and its website

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 years ago

thanks for the article.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

M.N. J.
M.N. J4 years ago

It is especially obnoxious to see Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom on the list. All zoos are supposed to be "family-friendly" and "educational," but these two are especially marketed as places to take children.

This is not how I would want my children educated about wildlife and animal welfare.

Manuela C.
Manuela C4 years ago

No animal should be in a zoo!

Angev GERIDONI4 years ago

For the horses and goats from PETROPOLIS thanks you to sign the petitions :
Care 2 - and - ♞
To see more : misfed. - Rip - Rip - misfed - Rip
😻 Read more, and help our fight on : Facebook


Angev GERIDONI4 years ago

ANOTHER THREAT on Petropolis animals, they need again your help
to stop a project of a vivarium for laboratory. You know what's
happened to the horses in the streets outside, imagine for pets in cages. Please sign the new petition here :
STOP Petropolis vivarium project
☞ Read more, and help our fight on : Facebook

Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.4 years ago


Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Don't forget they're precious lives like you and me

Angela K.
Angela K4 years ago


Petition signed and posted on Twitter

Theresa Robinson
Theresa Robinson4 years ago

What has become to our world/ planet. It's very sad. It just seems to continue at a fast rate. There seems to be no time to halt . What a horrific sin it really is.