Topeka, Kan. (WIBW) - Two USDA inspectors met with zoo and City officials Monday morning to conduct an exit interview for an elephant program inspection that occurred on October 25, 2012. The one-page report simply stated that no non-compliant items were identified during the focused elephant inspection. The October inspection was triggered by a complaint filed by a California-based animal rights group claiming that the zoo’s two elephants were not compatible.
During the meeting, the USDA representatives also provided an update on another focused elephant inspection that occurred approximately two months earlier, on August 28, 2012. This inspection, triggered by a complaint from the same California-based animal rights group, asked for one of the zoo’s elephants to be confiscated. Both complaints filed came during a politically-charged time for the zoo’s elephant program with outside groups pressuring the zoo to move its elephants to a sanctuary.
The August 28th inspection asked for the zoo to develop a written health management plan for its two geriatric elephants. While the zoo agreed with the need for that plan, it did not agree with how inspectors arrived at that conclusion. Based on external and independent reviews of the zoo’s elephant program that differed from the USDA’s evaluation, the zoo chose to appeal that inspection. While the USDA did agree to certain language changes in the report, the same structure remains. As of yet, the City has not decided whether to further pursue the appeal process.
“The City of Topeka is committed to ensuring that the Topeka Zoo is operated in a manner that promotes the best practices in animal welfare, and enhances the community’s quality of life,” City Manager Jim Colson said. “The organization is on the right track, and continues to improve.”
“Over the last year and a half, this zoo has seen positive progression not only in its relationship with its inspectors but in the inspection reports,” Zoo Director Brendan Wiley said. “This last report is where we want to be. We have brought our elephant program to a level of which this community can be proud. We may still have challenges in front of us but we now feel like the USDA is seeing our proactive nature to address them.”