This is urgent. The San Antonio Zoo has already filed paperwork with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), so a decision could happen any day now.
My name is Karrie, and I'm with One World Conservation in Texas. We've been monitoring an elephant named Lucky since 2008. Over the past five years, we have come to know Lucky on a level much deeper than the average zoo visitor; she is well loved by our team and community.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Lucky, she's a 53-year-old elephant who was caught in the wild in Thailand and has been kept in captivity ever since. Lucky has witnessed the deaths of at least five of her companions since her arrival to the San Antonio Zoo. As you may know, elephants are very sensitive, intelligent beings, and since her latest companion, Boo, died in March 2013, she's been all alone.
According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) guidelines, elephants should not be kept alone in captivity. It's emotionally traumatizing. That's why we're asking that Lucky be removed from the San Antonio Zoo and sent to a facility that offers social grouping, natural substrates, strictly enforced protected contact management, high-end veterinary care, and the space to better meet the needs of her species.
Please join us in asking the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to enforce their own standards and deny the San Antonio Zoo the ability to leave Lucky alone, again. This elephant, stolen from the wild decades ago, at least deserves to be socialized with others in a more appropriate facility.
We the undersigned fully support the position of One World Conservation and request:
1. That the AZA Accreditation Commission deny a variance requested by the San Antonio Zoo that would allow it to keep a single elephant, the 53-year-old female Asian elephant, Lucky.
2. The SSP make a recommendation for the transfer of Lucky to a facility that maintains elephants in social groupings, provides more space, has a suitably warm climate for elephants, and employs protected contact management.
We ask this based on the following:
The San Antonio Zoo has failed to comply with the AZA elephant standards for many years, and they have used variances to continue to remain non-compliant. The zoo requested a variance after the 2007 death of Alport, a 49-year-old African female, which left the zoo with one elephant, Lucky. As a result, Lucky remained alone for nearly three years. Now she will be alone again, and there is no indication that the zoo is considering the acquisition of another female elephant. Even if the zoo located another elephant, it would still be in violation of the AZA elephant standards.
Given the wealth of scientific literature on the highly social nature of elephants, it is inexcusable to keep Lucky alone for any period of time. This simply is inhumane treatment for this highly social species and a serious form of deprivation.
We presume that the AZA created its standards for the care and management of elephants in order to enhance welfare and avoid a situation in which a zoo would unacceptably hold a solitary female elephant. According to the AZA Standards for Elephant Management and Care (Revised April 2012), Section 18.104.22.168, Suggested age and sex structure of social group:
Each zoo holding elephants must hold a minimum of three females (or the space to hold three females), two males or three elephants of mixed gender. If a zoo cannot meet this standard, they must apply for a variance. Before the variance can be issued by the Accreditation Commission the zoo (a) must describe their plan to obtain additional elephants or describe their plan for deacquisitioning their elephants and (b) must describe what will occur if they experience the loss of one elephant. In most cases where an institution has one remaining elephant, the remaining elephant will receive a recommendation for relocation at another AZA institution from the Elephant TAG/SSP.
The San Antonio Zoo has announced that it does not plan to transfer Lucky to another institution and has indicated that it would be acceptable to keep her alone. Item (b) appears to apply to institutions holding more than one elephant. Apparently, a variance was not meant to address a situation in which a zoo holds a single elephant because this condition should not exist in any zoo. In fact, the standards indicate that the SSP would recommend the elephant be relocated to another facility.
We ask that the variance requested by the San Antonio Zoo be denied and that Lucky be sent to a facility that offers a social grouping, natural substrates, strictly enforced protected contact management, high-end veterinary care, and the space to better meet the needs of her species.
We ask on behalf of Lucky that you allow her feet to touch grass for the first time in 50 years, and grant her better than the substandard care she has known most of her life in her outdated exhibit at the San Antonio Zoo.