Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lowry Park Zoo officials react to major diss from animal rights group

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 3:11 PM

TLPZ Mbali and baby at Lowry Park
  • TLPZ Mbali and baby at Lowry Park
Officials with Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo are dismissing extremely unfavorable remarks made by the San Francisco based animal rights group, In Defense of Animals. The group gave the zoo a "Dishonorable Mention" in its listing of the 2012 Top Ten Worst Zoos For Elephants.

The "Dishonorable Mention" ranking was specifically for receiving four elephants from Swaziland in 2003. Zoo officials claimed they were saving the pachyderms from culling due to overpopulation.

In Defense of Animals members said this is inaccurate, and "reserves in Africa were available where the elephants could have remained free."

There were 11 elephants sent to the states, four going to Lowry Park and the remaining seven to the San Diego Zoo Global.

In Defense Of Animals went on to say:

The shady move condemned the elephants to lives of misery in zoos in North America and now, their offspring share the same fate. Mbali—one of the elephants at Lowry Park Zoo—gave birth to a calf in November. Africam Zoo in Mexico, which made IDA’s Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list, imported nine young elephants from Namibia in 2012. By paying cash-poor nations hundreds of thousands of dollars for elephants, these zoos are setting a terrible precedent for international conservation by promoting the commercial trade in this threatened species.

Lowry Park Zoo spokesperson Rachel Nelson told CL, "Although the elephant population in some areas of Africa is abundant, populations are under threat from human-elephant conflict, poaching, disease, and loss of habitat. In addition to conservation efforts with this species here at home, the zoo has supported acquiring additional land, anti-poaching programs, and public education in Swaziland to promote survival of thousands of animals protected there in game reserves. It is interesting that animal rights 'advocates,' of all people, suggested that death was a better alternative for these elephants than life in two professionally managed zoos."

This is the ninth annual report from the activist group. Christy Griffin, special projects officer at In Defense of Animals, said the claim that there was overpopulation of such animals in Swaziland "was not the case whatsoever. They were taken from an area where they were supposed to be protected for life."

In Defense of Animals doesn't believe that elephants should be kept in zoos. Griffin said "zoos are quite inadequate for elephants," claiming there's not enough space for them. (Lowry Park provides nearly three acres for the elephants.)

"It's really an unhealthy situation for elephants to be in," she said.

Griffin added that her group would like to see them transferred to sanctuaries in warmer climates, admitting that places like Florida are the best in the U.S., "but obviously ideally, they should be wandering the savannas of Africa."

Nelson countered Griffin's remarks, "Speaking up for animal welfare is terrific, but to avoid extinction, animals need more than voices — they need hard work, access to medical care, and safe, protected places to raise their offspring (like the newest calf, Zola, born Dec. 23, 2012, and seen in the above photo). That's what we do here at the zoo."

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