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Elephant-Free Zoos

With the recognition that zoos cannot adequately provide for the complex needs of elephants, several zoos have closed their elephant exhibits, setting a positive precedent worldwide.

United States
Zoo Year Elephant Disposition
Buttonwood Park Zoo
Pending as of 2013 Announcement that when current elephant residents pass away, the elephant exhibit will be closed. 
Philadelphia Zoo (Pennsylvania) 2009 Transferred two African elephants to the Pittsburgh Zoo’s elephant-breeding center in June 2009.
Alaska Zoo
2007 Transferred African elephant to the Performing Animal Welfare Society in San Andreas, California.
Philadelphia Zoo (Pennsylvania) 2007 Sent Asian elephant Dulary to The Elephant Sanctuary in April 2007.
Gladys Porter Zoo (Texas) 2006 Citing its inability to increase the size of its elephant exhibit, sent its only elephant, Ruth, a 28-year-old African, to another facility.
Lion Country Safari (Florida) Pending as of 2006 Intends to find new homes for African elephants Stumpy and Mama and then will close its elephant exhibit.
Santa Barbara Zoo (California) Pending as of 2006 Announced that it will not take any more elephants after the current two die.
Bronx Zoo (New York) Pending as of 2006 Announced that when two of its three elephants pass away, the remaining one will be sent to another zoo and the elephant exhibit will close.
Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago) 2005 After all three of its elephants died within a six-month period, announced that camels will be moved into the empty elephant exhibit.
Detroit Zoo (Michigan) 2004 Citing problems with keeping elephants in captivity, announced its decision to close its elephant exhibit and send the two female Asian elephants—Winky, age 51, and Wanda, age 46—to a sanctuary.
San Francisco Zoo (California) 2004 Announced its decision to close its elephant exhibit and send Tinkerbelle, a 37-year-old Asian elephant, and Lulu, a 38-year-old African elephant, to a sanctuary.
Chehaw Wild Animal Park (Georgia) 2004 Retired Tange and Zula, both 30-year-old African elephants, to The Elephant Sanctuary because the elephants “deserve to live out their remaining years in the very best captive environment possible.”
Henry Vilas Zoo (Wisconsin) 2000 Retired Winkie, a 34-year-old Asian elephant, to The Elephant Sanctuary, and transferred Penny, a 21-year-old African elephant, to Riverbanks Zoo, North Carolina.
Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo
1999 Retired Shirley, a 51-year-old Asian elephant, to The Elephant Sanctuary because “[i]t was in Shirley’s best interests to retire her to a place that was more suitable.”
Mesker Park Zoo (Indiana) 1999 Retired Bunny, a 46-year-old Asian elephant, to The Elephant Sanctuary.
Frank Buck Zoo (Texas) 1998 Transferred Sissy, a 20-year-old Asian elephant, to the Houston Zoo, then to El Paso Zoo, and finally to The Elephant Sanctuary.
Sacramento Zoo (California) 1991 Sent lone elephant Winky to the Detroit Zoo because the zoo’s elephant enclosure was considered “totally inadequate.”
Zoo Year Elephant Disposition
Toronto Zoo
2013 Transferred two African elephants to the Performing Welfare Animal Society in San Andreas, California.
All zoos in India 2009 As mandated by a decision of India’s Central Zoo Authority, announced the transfer of all 140 elephants living in 26 Indian zoos to wildlife parks and sanctuaries where they can graze more freely.
Dudley Zoo (United Kingdom) 2003 Transferred African elephants Flossie and Flora to Planet Sauvage in Nantes, France. (Dudley Zoo had admitted for some years that its enclosure was not appropriate, and fundraising to build a new enclosure was unsuccessful, so the zoo finally decided to find a new home for the elephants and has no plans to have more elephants in the future.)
Longleat Safari Park (United Kingdom) 2003 Closed the elephant exhibit at its 350-acre Wiltshire site and relocated five African elephants to the Zoo Parc de Beauval in France.
Bristol Zoo (United Kingdom) 2002 Euthanized the lone 42-year-old female elephant, Wendy, after years of suffering from arthritis. (She had been kept alone in a tiny enclosure since 1986. Bristol Zoo elected not to replace her.)
London Zoo (United Kingdom) 2001 Permanently relocated three female Asian elephants (Mya, Layang-Layang, and Dilberta) to Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, closing the zoo’s 170-year-old elephant exhibit. (London Zoo’s enclosure had been heavily criticized for years, and a keeper was killed in October 2001.)
Edinburgh Zoo (United Kingdom) 1988 No longer keeps elephants because of fears that captivity may cause harm to the animals.


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