Expert: Zoo Elephants In Good Health, Improve Their Habitat

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - An elephant expert offered a positive review of the Topeka Zoo's pachyderms. Topeka's city council members heard his opinions as they weighed the future of the zoo's elephant exhibit.

Alan Roocroft has consulted more than a hundred zoos across the globe on elephants.

He says he had one purpose in assessing the welfare of topeka's elephants.

"I have no agenda. [It's] solely whats best for the elephants, the zoo and ultimately the community," he began his presentation.

Roocroft told council members the zoo's Asian and African elephants, Sunda and Tembo are in good health.

He also said his review found the elephants show no teeth, joint or arthritis issues.

Council members followed with a series of questions and concerns, some of which have been raised by animal activists.

"Are the elephants in a healthy environment?" Councilman Andrew Gray asked.

"Yeah," Roocroft answered. "Could it be better? Yes," he added.

Roocroft said he has worked with zoo staff to develop strategies for a better environment - but admits, it comes at a price.

"What I'm encouraging you to do is better the environment, is actually go for making Topeka a destination of knowledge for elephants," he said. "It would be a tragedy not to have them in the community.

Roocroft challenged the city to "ante up" and take better care of the animals.

"You gotta step the game up," he told city council. "That of course involves money."

Zoo director followed Roocroft's presentation, proposing a new philosophy to manage the two elderly elephants.

"We have an opportunity before us to really change our philosophy and instead of managing elephants in a traditional way where we maintain them for people to come and see, to really develop an elephant habitat, where elephants have enough activities.

He told 13 News that would involve a 24-hour activity philosophy, giving the elephants increased activity opportunities available around the clock.

Wiley says the transition could be made at an initial cost of $60,000d, with an additional $30,000 annually.

It does not yet involve an expansion of the exhibit itself.

Wiley says he'll present a recommendation to council members. They're expected to vote whether to support it at their meeting next week.

City council also heard from members of the community during its public comment section. Kate Larison, executive director of Friends of the Zoo, presented members with 685 signatures of people supporting the zoo, its staff and the elephant program.

If you have any questions for Roocroft about his findings, he'll meet with the public at noon Wednesday at the zoo.