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Why Is Little Rock Zoo Hiding a Dead Elephant?

Written by PETA | July 8, 2011

Less than two months ago, PETA called on the Little Rock Zoo to retire its lone elephant, Ellen, (Mary, her companion, had just died), and send her to a sanctuary where she could spend her remaining years in peace and comfort. Now it’s too late: Ellen is dead

Benoit Dupont/cc by 2.0

Rather than trying to find out what caused Ellen’s rapid decline, zoo officials shut the gates to the public and buried Ellen at an undisclosed location. PETA is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate what really happened and to order a necropsy because of the suspicious handling of Ellen’s death. Here are some questions that demand answers:

  1. It is unheard of for an entire zoo to close when an animal dies. Why did the Little Rock Zoo shut its doors?
  2. Why did the zoo rush to bury Ellen in a secret location? The zoo claims that it did so to prevent someone from stealing Ellen’s tusks, but female Asian elephants like Ellen do not have tusks.
  3. Why wasn’t a necropsy performed, as is standard protocol, especially as the cause of Ellen’s death was uncertain?  
  4. Was Ellen injured by one of the other elephants recently acquired from Ringling Bros. circus to replace Mary? The zoo’s own elephant manager expressed concerns about potential fights between Ellen and the new elephants, Zina and Jewell, and Ringling had documented that Zina has a history of aggression. 

Please join PETA in asking the USDA to investigate the circumstances surrounding Ellen’s death.

Written by Jennifer O’Connor

Commenting is closed.
  • Clark says:

    Just saw a tweet that Jewell has just died at 62 at the Little Rock Zoo and again they are closing the zoo to remove her body.

  • Wow says:

    You must have never even seen a picture of the elephant you care so much about, or you’d know that she actually does have small tusks. This has been zoo policy for 20+ years. Also, you try removing a dead elephant from an open zoo in front of children and families. And no necropsy? She was 60 years old! Mary died of cancer by the way, not neglect. But you guys have elephant degrees, right? Glad to see you only allow comments posted in your favor as well.

  • Maggie says:

    This is just so sad! The humans need to stop being greedy and quit making money off defenseless animals. Poor Mary must of been in some mental anguish. USDA standup for what you say you represent and stop looking the otherway. There is so much documentation and past episodes that have can be prevented from further destrction. St. Francis bless your creatures.

  • Robin Lynn says:

    This just breaks my heart! I do hope Peta continues to pressure the zoo to answer its questions and doesnt let Ellens death be swept under the rug.

  • Real animal lover says:

    I want to start by saying that always admired/supported PETA until now. This is ridiculous and embarrassing…and people like you give animal lovers a bad name…when you should instead be using your time to help the millions of animals actually in need. As a former employee and friend of the Little Rock Zoo staff, and want to correct some things that have been misinformed or blown out of proportion. –how is it at ALL surprising that the zoo closed for a few hours? Ellen died unexpectedly ab an hour before open. It may come as a surprise…but a several thousand pound body takes more than an hour to remove. Next time maybe they should just leave it in the yard and open to avoid “looking suspicious”. —no one ever said they don’t disclose the location bc of she clearly had none. It’s so crowds/fanatics dont cause problems. —the new elephants and Ellen were NEVER left together they were only starting introductions –Ellen was 60 YEARS OLD!!! and VERY loved. Had anyone actually been at the zoo that day, you’d have room to talk.

  • Shanna Bird says:

    It saddens me to think that so many people just walk through life without taking the time to see how the human race treats animals. How can we just stand there using animals for entertainment? How can we allow animals to be abused and mistreated? WE CAN’T! We have to be the voice for the ones that don’t have one. I refuse to be apart of anything exploiting animals. The only excuse for a captive animal is reserves and sanctuary’s that give them free roam a healthy happy life free from mistreatment and abuse! STOP THE ABUSE!

  • Chloe says:

    I live in Little Rock and when I heard about Mary dying, I was very sad and angry at the same time. I was angry because it was probably one or more of the elephant managers that helped cause the death by not taking very good care of her. I feel the same way about Ellen. If you let animals live horrible ways of life, then something bad is liable to happen.

  • Ash says:

    What this zoo is doing is very strange and suspicious. Why would they want to cover this up? People shouldn’t be blind to the fact that Ellen (and Mary), two beautiful and majestic elephants, died with an unknown cause, yet the staff and such like of the zoo are pretending like it never happened and aren’t telling what happened to them and not mourning their deaths. Treating their deaths as if it were nothing. What makes it more suspicious is that it appears that this zoo has connections with the notorious Ringling Brother’s Circus, which is infamous and renowned for the harsh mistreatment of animals. If you haven’t heard about Ringling Brother’s Circus, check it out on the PETA website. It’s terrible, what they are doing to animals. Using bullhooks, prodders, fists, eletric items, ropes or any other kind of weapon is NOT acceptable. You wouldn’t do that to your companion animals, so why should they do it to theirs? Let alone any other animal.

  • Harmony Inspired says:

    If You are incapable of caring for an animal You should not be allowed the opportunity to cause it harm, which is exactly what has happened here, incompetence has overruled wisdom and cost a beautiful creature her life, Now like the cowards they are they hide the proof of thier incapacity to properly care for the animals in thier care.

  • Fred says:

    To answer your questions Jennifer: 1. They shut down the zoo so they could remove the body from the zoo. This was out of respect for the elephant as well as some sensibilities. 2. Where are you getting this claim? This isn’t in the story. 3. They say heart attack or stroke – no necropsy is mentioned, but that doesn’t mean that it did NOT happen either. 4. Again, no mention of this in the article. Why is PETA sensationalizing this? The article doesn’t match comments made by this blogger. And yes… if you choose to NOT post this up and instead send me an e-mail shows CLEARLY the truth of what’s really going on.

  • Rahab Mitchell says:

    i’m sorry to hear of this happening to the Ellen. I visited the zoo a few years ago and found the tropical rain forest remarkable! At the same time, the housing for the horses was small and poorly ventilated, while other parts of the zoo were clearly suffering from neglect. Please continue to press for an investigation and demand citizen review!