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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
Virginia Zoo
2016 In November 2015, the Virginia Zoo announced that it would be moving African elephants Lisa and Cita to Zoo Miami.  
Woodland Park Zoo
2015 It transferred elephants Bamboo and Chai to the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Greenville Zoo (South Carolina) 2014 After African elephant Ladybird died in March, Greenville Zoo sent the remaining elephant, 44-year-old Joy, to another facility. Joy died while being transported to the new location.
BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo
2013 It transferred the last elephant to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
Niabi Zoo
2013 It transferred the last two elephants to the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas.
Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens
2011 It transferred the last elephant to Zoo Miami.
The Jackson Zoo
2010 It transferred two African elephants to the Nashville Zoo in Tennessee.
Brookfield Zoo
2010 The last remaining elephant, Joyce, who was “on loan” from Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, was returned to Vallejo, California.
Lion Country Safari
2010 It transferred African elephants Stumpy and Mama to the Dallas Zoo in March 2010.
Philadelphia Zoo (Pennsylvania) 2009 It transferred two African elephants to the Pittsburgh Zoo’s elephant-breeding center in June 2009.
Alaska Zoo
2007 It transferred an African elephant to the Performing Animal Welfare Society in San Andreas, California.
Abilene Zoo
2007 It transferred the remaining elephant, 29-year-old Tanya, to the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas.
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.
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) 2005 In 2004, citing problems with keeping elephants in captivity, it 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 It 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 It 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 It retired Winkie, a 34-year-old Asian elephant, to The Elephant Sanctuary, and transferred Penny, a 21-year-old African elephant, to Riverbanks Zoo in North Carolina.
Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo
1999 It retired Shirley, a 51-year-old Asian elephant, to The Elephant Sanctuary because “[i]t was in Shirley’s best interest to retire her to a place that was more suitable.”
Mesker Park Zoo (Indiana) 1999 It retired Bunny, a 46-year-old Asian elephant, to The Elephant Sanctuary.
Frank Buck Zoo (Texas) 1998 It 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 It sent lone elephant Winky to the Detroit Zoo because the zoo’s elephant enclosure was considered “totally inadequate.”
Buttonwood Park Zoo
Pending In 2013, it announced that when the elephants currently there pass away, the elephant exhibit will be closed.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
Pending In 2011, it announced that when the elephants currently there pass away, it will likely be the end of the elephant exhibit.
Santa Barbara Zoo (California) Pending In 2006, it announced that it will not take any more elephants after the current two die.
Bronx Zoo (New York) Pending In 2006, it announced that when two of the three elephants pass away, the remaining one will be sent to another zoo and the elephant exhibit will close.
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.