African elephants Kallie and Bette, both taken as babies from their families in the wild, were shipped from their quarter-acre exhibit at the Philadelphia Zoo to a breeding-holding facility outside Pittsburgh in July of 2009, where they were confined in a cement barn or pens consisting of a few acres - conditions that cause arthritis and deadly foot infections, the number one cause of death of captive elephants. Last winter the elephants spent two months straight in stalls in the cement barn due to the weather. Zoo officials announced in February 2010 that Kallie and Bette have been determined to be too unhealthy to be bred. A true sanctuary in California offered to give Kallie and Bette (and Petal, who died of captivity-induced conditions in June 2008) a forever home at no charge over three years ago.
Kallie and Bette lived at the breeding-holding facility until November 2011, when the zoo allowed long-time friends Kallie and Bette to be separated to make room for three new breeding-age females recently imported from Botswana. Although zoo officials had previously described Kallie and Bette as "very bonded to each other" (Kim Lengel, general curator for Philadelphia Zoo), the zoo claimed in its press release announcing the separation that "neither staff at Philadelphia nor staff at Pittsburgh have observed a close or highly positive relationship.” Kallie was sent on “long term loan” to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo while Bette remains at the Pittsburgh facility.
At the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Kallie originally shared an exhibit space of less than two acres with five other elephants, but the oldest elephant, 45-year-old Jo, died in July 2012 after collapsing in the cement barn and failing to get up. Kallie is reportedly getting along well with the three female elephants Moshe, Shenga and Martina. The bull elephant Willie is occasionally allowed to visit the females. We wish we lived closer so that we could monitor Kallie, but at least she is on public view. Not so for Bette....
Bette's condition is unknown because despite repeated requests, officials from the Philadelphia Zoo ("owner" of Bette) and the Pittsburgh Zoo (owner of the facility where Bette is warehoused) refuse to provide any photos, video, or even updated information about her. In fact, the Philadelphia Zoo hasn’t provided any public information about Kallie or Bette in over three years other than a November 2011 press release announcing Kellie’s transfer to the Cleveland Zoo.
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