By Marnie Eisenstadt – Syracuse.com
Syracuse, N.Y. — An animal rights group has put the Syracuse zoo on its list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants. This is the fifth time the zoo has made the list.
In Defense of Animals put the Rosamond Gifford Zoo at number 10 on the list.
The group singled out the Syracuse zoo’s elephant breeding program as the main reason. It operates “without regard for family or bonded relationships.”
The group pointed out the recent birth of baby Ajay last year, saying the family has been split apart and shipped around to other places. They said his mother, Mali, was sent to the African Lion Safari in Canada, where she gave birth to Chuck. Both were sent back to the Syracuse zoo, but Chuck was taken from his mother at 6 years old, the group said.
The Syracuse zoo recently upgraded its elephant habitat. And, while the animal rights group has been critical of the program for years, other groups have praised the zoo’s elephant breeding program and credited it with helping to save the Asian elephant from extinction.
The zoo also has consistently retained its accreditation from the AZA, the main organization that ensures zoos and aquariums around the world keep their animals in the proper conditions. That group does extensive interviews and site visits periodically.
This past year, the animal rights group sent someone to the Syracuse zoo to observe the elephants, they said. They saw Doc, Ajay’s father, swaying back and forth throughout the day. This, the group said, was an indication that he was stressed from being in an artificial environment and not able to satisfy his normal behavioral needs.
The group also said they were told the zoo planned to send Doc to another facility in the near future.
The Bronx Zoo also made the list, coming in at number 3.
“Many zoos have shut down their elephant exhibits or plan to phase them out. In Defense of Animals is renewing its call for these two new York zoos to do the same,” In Defense of Animals said in a statement.