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Practical Issues > Animals Used for Entertainment > Zoos - Index

Fates At Zoos and Circuses
Feb 14, 2006

You can watch the WESH I-team circus report, or read the text, on line at:
http://www.wesh.com/news/6812515/detail.html?rss=orl&psp=news

It includes footage of Ringling Brothers elephants being whacked with bullhooks by trainers, as they simply stood chained to a poll doing nothing.

The piece clearly tried to be balanced, interviewing both an animal rights activist and a Ringling representative who gave a tour of the Ringling elephant breeding ground and talked about how beautifully the elephants are treated. However the reporter included the story of Ricardo, an 8-month-old elephant who fell off a pedestal, broke his hind legs and had to be euthanized. Though the Ringling representative referred to a brittle bone disease and called his death "a heartbreaking fact of nature," we can hope that most viewers would not agree that a baby elephant falling off a pedestal is as an act of nature.

Bryan Wilson, of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, says, "He should have still been with his mother. He should have still been nursing."

The piece mentions other Ringling deaths being investigated.

As the circus is still largely seen as good clean family fun and most media are doing fluff pieces on it, WESH deserves much thanks and encouragement. Please sent a quick note. The station takes comments at:
http://www.wesh.com/station/290180/detail.html

KSDK's story, by reporter Mike Owen, on the fate of chimpanzees retired from the St Louis Zoo, can be viewed or read on line at: http://ksdk.com/news/cover_story/cover_article.aspx?storyid=91886

The story follows Edythe, a 41 year old chimpanzee born at the Saint Louis Zoo who is now at a road-side zoo in Amarillo. The St Louis Zoo used to do circus-like chimpanzee shows but when the trainer died, the shows stopped.

We learn:

"Zoo records, which administrators admit are in disarray, show that some of the chimps that thrilled audiences in St. Louis went to other zoos and some to private owners. It surprised the I-team to learn a number of them were sold for medical research."

Another St Louis chimpanzee was one of three chimps gunned down last year when they broke out of their pen at Zoo Nebraska. They hurt nobody.

The story does an excellent job of highlighting the plight of zoo cast-offs. It shows that once chimps, or any animals, are sold from leading zoos, they may be bounced around from place to place. The roadside zoo in Amarillo is Edythe's fifth home.

Those who wish to read more about this issue might like to take a look at a US News & World Report story, from 2002, headed, "Cruel and Usual: How some of America's best zoos get rid of their old, inform, and unwanted animals."

I have it on my website at: www.DawnWatch.com/Cruel_and_Usual.htm

My one concern about the KSDK piece is that in its attempts to be balanced, it includes information that Steve Ross of Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo had told the reporter that thanks to a new program "no chimpanzee today could ever be sold to a medical testing facility." Primate protection experts in our movement tell me that simply is not true. The KSDK story ends with the quote:

"Will we ever know exactly what happened to chimps like Mr. Moke who performed at the zoo? The zoo admits its records are far from complete. The SSP's records allow us to trace a few chimps, but it seems the paper trail for many of the chimps just isn't there."

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