The plight of elephants in captivity is pressing

Published: Saturday, January 29, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 28, 2005 at 10:06 p.m.
I enjoy Renaissance Fairs, and have attended many. However, after my first visit to the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire five years ago, I resolved never to return, because I found the conditions in which the animal rides were conducted to be very disturbing.
While I am concerned about the welfare of any animals used in this way, the plight of elephants alarms me most. Elephants in captivity are excessively stressed and frequently diseased, due to a lack of the conditions they need to thrive.
They do not breed well in captivity. Foot and joint disorders are common. So is abnormal "zoochotic" behavior resulting from their unmet social and environmental needs.
Some elephants used for animal rides have broken under the stress and run amok, causing serious injuries and death to bystanders.
Several major zoos have already started to phase out their elephant programs, citing their inability to adequately care for them.
According to the National Zoo's web page, "elephants in the current North American zoo populations are not reproducing fast enough to replace themselves."
This means that captive stocks can only be maintained by the capture of wild infant elephants, which often results in killing the adults. The infants also frequently die before they adjust to captivity.
The use of elephants for animal acts of any kind is inhumane, and the keeping of elephants in captivity can only be maintained by decimating wild populations.
Julia Harrison, Gainesville

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