City Releases Latest USDA Zoo Inspection Report

Tembo and Sunda at the Topeka Zoo

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Concerns over nutrition and dry skin led to citations from the USDA in their latest inspection of the Topeka Zoo.

City officials released the results Wednesday of an August 28th inspection. They previously said they would not provide details because it is under appeal. The inspection led to a citation for violating the Animal Welfare Act regarding its care of the zoo's two elephants, Timbo and Sunda.

WIBW-TV received a copy of the inspection report ahead of an afternoon news conference in response to an open records filing.

Specifically, the USDA report says the elephants were put on a weight-reduction plan in February 2011 that included reducing the amount of produce and pellet feed they received, and substituting a portion of hay with straw. The USDA report expresses concern that a nutritional expert was not consulted and options such as increased exercise were not considered.

The report also notes a history of foot and toe nail problems in the 52-year-old Asian elephant. The USDA says the problems are being treated, however, the zoo has no plan to diagnosis the underlying problems.

Similarly, the USDA notes excessive building up dead skin on the back and hips of the 42-year-old African elephant. The USDA says such buildup is a risk factor for skin infections. While the condition itself is being treated, the USDA report says, there is no plan to address the underlying cause of the buildup.

The USDA report directs the Topeka Zoo to develop a more comprehensive approach to the health problems, including consulting with experts in elephant nutrition, foot care and skin care. The report gives the zoo until September 28, 2012 to develop such a plan.

City officials are responding to the findings in an afternoon news conference.

In a news release earlier Wednesday, the city said the zoo has hosted a number of consultants since February 2012 in evaluating its elephant program and what the future might hold in terms of housing elephants at the Topeka Zoo.

Zoo officials will update the city council on its evaluations and efforts at a work session Tuesday, October 2.