Wildlife Safari Defends Its Elephant Car Wash

During the summer at the Wildlife Safari zoo in Oregon, visitors can pay $25 to have elephants “wash” their vehicles. The elephants use their trunks as sponge holders and hoses.

Wildlife Safari is “dedicated to conservation, education and research of native and exotic wildlife,” according to its website. “It is our commitment to educate the public about the status of animals around the world.” The elephant car wash is referred to as an “animal enrichment activity.”

Since elephants don’t naturally wash cars in the wild, many people, myself included, don’t understand what is enriching or educational about this activity. Back in 2009, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) complained about it. In Defense of Animals (IDOA) ranked Wildlife Safari at No. 7 in its 2016 list of the 10 worst zoos for elephants (it’s made their top 10 for five of the past six years). Over88,000 Care2 members have signed a petition urging Wildlife Safari to end the elephant car wash.

On its Facebook page March 18, Wildlife Safari posted a statement responding to what it called “the pure libel being dispelled” by those”who claim to be in defense of animals but who, in fact, do little but threaten the care, research and other important stewardship activities that work toward providing actual and measurable results in saving species.”

If this baffling accusation sounds familiar, it’s very similar to what Jordan Patch, owner of Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, N.Y., said recently in response to the “animal rights extremists” he blamed for flagging the park’slivestream of a giraffe giving birthas being graphic and containing nudity. YouTube temporarily removed the video. Flagging the livestream, Patch claimed, “harmed the species’ survival more than you could ever recognize.”

But back to Wildlife Safari. Its Facebook statement said that “the bulk of the people criticizing Wildlife Safari have never visited the park.” It doesn’t explain how it obtained that statistic, but if it’s true, here’s a thought: People who are opposed to animals beingexploited aren’t very likelyto spendtheir money ona zoo with an elephant car wash.

The statement goes on to say that anyone who claims the elephants are being forced to work with soapy water “are merely lying or generating misinformation with the intent of furthering an agenda to take down an organization dedicated to providing for various species.” In response to a comment asking about the soapy water, Wildlife Safari stated it is “crystal clear, filtered drinking water.”

There sure seemed to be a lot of soap suds in 2010, but perhaps this video is merely generating misinformation.

Wildlife Safari doesn’t say in its Facebook statement how the elephants were trained to spray and sponge cars, but it refutes both PETA’s and IDOA’s claims that ituses bullhooks, which are long rods with sharp hooks on the end — oh, hey, just like the zoo employee in the video above appears to be holding in his right hand. Yet, according to the statement, “The guide used at the park is nothing like the vicious bullhook described in these articles.”

In a 2009 interview with the Roseburg News-Review, the zoo’s general curator, Dan Brands, said bullhooks are indeed used as extensions of the trainers’ arms. “The terminology we use is ‘guides,’” he said. “They are not used in an abusive way.”

But it’s very important to note that because of the pain that can be inflicted by bullhooks when they’re used to strike sensitive areas of an elephant’s body, they’ve been banned in several major U.S. cities and the state of Rhode Island. Instead of bullhooks, the Performing Animals Welfare Society recommends using amuch more humane method, calledprotected contact.

If it seems really surprising that the comments from Facebook users about Wildlife Safari’s statement are overwhelmingly positive in fact, they’re all positive it’s not because everybody reading it is cool with the elephant car wash. No, it’s because “park policy dictates that negative messages about wildlife conservation be immediately deleted,” according to the statement.

Speaking of a negative message about wildlife conservation, the elephant car wash is no way to educate people about these dignified, intelligent animals, and should be immediately deleted.

Instead of forking out $25 for a car wash (Wildlife Safari says the money goes to expanding the elephants’ room to roam at the zoo), what would really help elephants would be to donate that money to a sanctuary or wildlife conservation charity. If you don’t think elephants should be washing cars, please sign and share this Care2 petition.

Photo credit: YouTube


Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Marija M
Marija M5 months ago

So sad. tks for sharing.

joan silaco
joan silaco9 months ago

charging people $25.00! Zoos are becoming a money making enterprise without a care in the world for the animal!

Catherine m
Catherine m9 months ago

Absolutely disgracefull and exploitation off a beautiful animal they supposed to be protecting and caring for , this isn't enrichment being made to stand about squirting water on cars for god knows how long and that man carrying the stick or bullhook wonder what that's for hmmm cruelty should be investigated and stopped

Margie F
Margie FOURIE9 months ago

I dont think it is right, but then again I havent visited the park!

rosario p.
rosario p.9 months ago

This is not dignifying the specie and a ignominious act. Sadly elephants has been used for near, which is known, 5000 years and contributed , unfortunately for them, to empowerment of humanity.

Nancy Wrightington
Nancy Wrightington9 months ago

uh oh ... please don't be angry with me .. I'm guilty for not reading entire article. Mea culpa x 100

Nancy Wrightington
Nancy Wrightington9 months ago

Cute idea as long as the elephants are not harmed in ANY way!!

Shailja Mukhtyar
Shailja Mukhtyar9 months ago

join w/ me & flag ruth!! been a while since i tried to fight the spam- but just noticing they r still a recurring issue

Jennifer H
Jennifer H9 months ago

There are no other words except exploitation of a species.