A 32-year-old African elephant (*G as in giant, really giant) named Jenny has been getting a lot of media coverage lately. You see, Keke—the only other elephant at the Dallas Zoo, where she is kept—recently passed away. Because Jenny was taken from her mother in the wild when she was 2 years old, she missed out on the mother-daughter bonds that elephants maintain for their entire lives. So Keke wasn’t just her best friend—she was the only family Jenny had.
We bet you agree with us that Jenny should be sent ASAP to a fantastic facility where she can choose her own new friends. And the zoo is shipping her out, but where does it want to send her? Their plan is to export her to a drive-through tourist attraction in Mexico called Africam.
Jenny has a lot of psychological and health problems. She needs plenty of space, a nurturing staff to look after her special needs, and her choice of companions. The elephant enclosure at Africam is barely 5 acres—a fraction of the 30 miles per day that elephants might roam in the wild. In fact, this video shows three Asian elephants at Africam as they sway back and forth, an indication of boredom and frustration and a behavior that is never seen in elephants in the wild. These aren’t happy elephants—and I wouldn’t be happy either if I were standing in a mostly barren enclosure on hard, compressed dirt with nothing to explore.
Of course, there’s a far better option for Jenny. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has already offered Jenny a peaceful home, where she would have hundreds of acres to explore (and the companionship of three other female African elephants), live in a fabulous facility, and remain protected by the U.S. Animal Welfare Act. Despite this, the Dallas Zoo so far isn’t backing down from its decision.
Why? Well, the Dallas Zoo says that it will only send Jenny to a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Um, shouldn’t it be acceptable to send Jenny to a facility whose standards actually exceed those of the AZA? After all, the AZA’s guidelines for elephants permit the kind of abuse seen in circuses. Besides that, the AZA only requires elephant enclosures to be 40 by 45 feet, which—if you do the math—is about the size of a three-car garage. That might not be big enough for a 13,000-lb. elephant.
And by the way, if you’re still thinking that AZA accreditation means something, consider this: The elephants at Africam swaying in that video are in an AZA-approved habitat.
If you’d like to help Jenny get to The Elephant Sanctuary and a wonderful retirement, please see our action alert to find out how. Also, be sure to watch 20/20 tonight at 10 p.m., as there will be a moving story about elephants and how they really are just like us. “There are things about elephants that seem so similar to us. Their family life, their emotional life, the fact that they grieve. They stand out from other animals,” said Gay Bradshaw, the director of a research institute called The Kerulos Center.
Posted by Amanda Schinke