Thursday, June 10, 2004


Vote Comes as Zoo Stalls on Moving Elephants; Over 1,500 Zoo Patrons Endorse Elephant Transfer

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today unanimously passed a resolution calling for the last two surviving elephants at the San Francisco Zoo to be transferred as soon as possible to an elephant sanctuary in California. The vote comes as the zoo continues to drag its feet on transferring the elephants, claiming it will take up to four months to choose a sanctuary for them.

The resolution states: "that the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco urges the San Francisco Zoological Society to transfer ownership of and relocate elephants Lulu and Tinkerbelle to the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary and to immediately bring in representatives of the sanctuary to the zoo to begin the transfer process."

The resolution highlights the PAWS sanctuary, where elephant habitats far exceed federal and zoo industry standards and personnel have extensive experience treating elephants debilitated from years in captivity under severely inadequate conditions.

"We commend the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for its leadership and humanitarianism in demanding the transfer of the long-suffering elephants from the zoo to a more appropriate environment," said Elliot M. Katz, DVM, president of In Defense of Animals. "Now it's time for the zoo to stop stalling and move quickly to transfer Tinkerbelle and Lulu to the PAWS sanctuary. Continuing to confine these obviously ailing elephants in their tiny zoo lots is not only inhumane, it is also a continuing embarrassment to the City of San Francisco."

Over 1,500 Zoo patrons have signed a petition endorsing the prompt transfer of the City-"owned" elephants to the sanctuary. The Zoo has been under fire since the death of two elephants in less than two months at the zoo. Calle, an Asian elephant, was euthanized on March 7. Maybelle, an African elephant, was found collapsed in the zoo yard on April 22. She died a few hours later.

Despite pressure from various San Francisco Supervisors and concerned citizens, Zoo management has acted slowly in moving the elephants to a sanctuary that can provide a more spacious and naturalistic habitat. Zoo director Manuel Mollinedo has even gone so far as to suggest that he must investigate the credibility of the PAWS sanctuary, when, in fact, San Francisco Zoo personnel have visited its facilities and had extensive discussions with PAWS directors, the USDA has certified PAWS' operations, and several other zoos have transferred elephants to the California refuge.

The elephants at the SF Zoo have for years suffered from degenerative health conditions caused by the inadequate Zoo environment. In the wild, elephants travel up to 50+ miles a day and live 60-70 years. At the SF Zoo, elephants are held in lots of less than 1 acre with cold, damp and foggy weather. The Zoo has a history of elephants dying prematurely: Calle died at 37; Maybelle died at 43, and in 1999, Penny died at the age of 41. A 1999/2000 city performance audit characterized conditions for elephants at the San Francisco Zoo as "especially poor."