Zoo Director Talks Options For Elephants

By: Suzie Gilbert Email
By: Suzie Gilbert Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- It's a decision that carries a lot of weight. Topeka city leaders must decide the future of the zoo elephants.

Animal activists say it's an easy decision, that the Topeka Zoo isn't the place for Timbo and Sunda.

"They display the neurotic swaying, most of the time when you go there you will see them rocking back and forth and this is never seen in the wild," Animal Outreach of Kansas Co-Founder Judy Carman says the Asian and African elephants don't speak the same language. She says they don't have enough room to roam and that cracks in Sunda's feet show she's suffering.

"The reason they have foot problems is because they're in a zoo," Carman said.

City Council members John Alcala and Denise Everhart agree, but Zoo Director Brendan Wiley says the zoo has options.

"The exhibit could likely be expanded and really grow to about a 3.5 acre exhibit within our current fence," Wiley said.

Wiley says much of what Carman claims, isn't based on fact. He says the elephants can communicate, that even wild elephants get cracked hooves, and that their enclosure, built in 2007, can accommodate up to four elephants.

When asked if he thought the elephants should stay at the zoo or not, Wiley said he couldn't answer.

"Really the answer can't be arrived at until we bring our council up to speed," Wiley said, adding, "until we get a real good analysis of all the different options to the city manager."

Adding to the arguments, a new AZA requirement that zoos have at least three elephants of the same species, and the city's appeal of a recent USDA citation for violating the animal welfare act.

Wiley says he hopes to have a plan for the elephants in six weeks.

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