Topeka Zoo Responds To Elephant Complaint

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Conversation turned to the Topeka Zoo elephants at Tuesday's Topeka City Council meeting. Zoo officials responded to a complaint alleging zoo elephants are in danger.

In Defense of Animals asked the USDA to remove Sunda, the Topeka Zoo's 52-year-old Asian elephant. The complaint was presented to City Council members last week. It cites gaping holes in Sunda's nails. It also says she's in danger of chronic foot disease, what the IDA calls the leading cause of death for elephants in zoos.

Topeka Zoo Director Brendan Wiley says most of the complaint is false. Wiley, and Veterinarian Shirley Llizo, say the holes came from cracks in the nails, seen on about half of all elephants in captivity.

They say to the untrained eye, the holes might look painful and infected, but they're not. In fact, Wiley says discoloration is caused by preventative medication, and topical ointment, and that the lesions have grown on purpose. He says staff members have trimmed the nails to remove dead tissue, so new nail can grow in healthy and strong.

Wiley says his proof comes in the form of thermographic images, that he says show no signs of infection, and an x-ray, showing strong and healthy bones.

Talks about the elephants' futures will continue. The AZA requires zoos to have at least three of the same species, meaning without more space, the animals could go.