Monterey Zoo Faces Scrutiny Over Elephant Deaths

PETA Obtained Necropsies Revealing That Elephants Suffered From Painful Joint Condition, Bacterial Infection Prior to Their Deaths

For Immediate Release:
June 30, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382

Salinas, Calif.

PETA has just obtained necropsies for two elephants, Paula and Kristy, who died at the Monterey Zoo in 2019—and the reports raise serious questions about the level of care that the animals received prior to their deaths.

The necropsies show that Paula, who was euthanized in January 2019 because she was unable to stand, had severe osteochondrosis, a painful joint condition that typically results in lameness, joint swelling, and a reduced range of motion. Kristy died in October 2019 from a severe bacterial infection. Salmonella and clostridium were found in her intestinal tract, where the tissue was inflamed and necrotizing, and E. coli was found in her liver and kidneys. Although proper treatment for such an infection can be lifesaving, the necropsy report does not indicate whether Monterey staff observed any symptoms or attempted to provide Kristy with care.

“These damning reports show that one elephant’s intestinal tissue was rotting away and another was likely unable to move without agony,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is urging people never to visit this facility or any other that uses elephants to sell tickets but lets them down when push comes to shove.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—points to an incident in June 2018 in which a handler took “aggressive action” toward Paula. She “began thrashing,” “stepped on,” and threw the handler—who sustained a broken back and ankle and was hospitalized—while a second worker beat her with a cane. The Monterey Zoo—which currently has two elephants in its custody—is the only facility in California that still manages elephants through circus-style “free contact” handling, in which handlers share the same space with elephants and use domination, force, and punishment with weapons to exact their obedience.

In response to the necropsy results, PETA has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to investigate whether Kristy and Paula received appropriate care in the lead-up to their deaths.

PETA opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit

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