Zoo Weighs Future Of Elephants

Tembo and Sunda at the Topeka Zoo

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The future of elephants at the Topeka Zoo remains up in the air. While the zoo must make changes to keep the animals and comply with new standards, one group says they need to go.

Animal Outreach of Kansas held an informational meeting Thursday night at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. They want the zoo's elephants, Tembo and Sunda, moved to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee.

At the meeting, the group showed a video about the sanctuary and also had a representative from the facility available via the internet to answer questions. The group says the sanctuary offers a more humane setting, where elephants can move more freely than the enclosure at a zoo.

Topeka Zoo Director Brendan Wiley says the zoo is evaluating its elephant exhibit in the wake of new Association of Zoo and Aquarium standards, which say zoos must have at least three elephants all of the same species. Tembo and Sunda are different species.

Wiley says the zoo is consulting architects about the design and costs associated with an exhibit for three elephants. They're also asking experts whether there's a case for Tembo and Sunda, who've been together 35 years, to stay together.

Wiley says the bottom line is to do what's best for the animals and, also, to assist as best as possible with conservation of the dwindling elephant population.

Wiley says the zoo hopes to have a decision on elephants at the zoo by May or June. He also said no one from the Tennessee sanctuary has contacted him about wanting Sunda and Tembo.