Tucson elephants Connie & Shaba – sanctuary or zoo?by Karyn Zoldan on Jan. 23, 2012, under Animal Cruelty, Animal News, Wildlife
According to Jessica Shuman, a local Tucson animal activist, Tucson elephants Connie & Shaba going to the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey is not a good idea. Other people who commented in my previous post also agree.
Shuman says that this move is a calculated smokescreen that most of the public cannot critically see through unless it is spelled out. She spells it out below:
“This plan allows the AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums) to move forward in separating Africans and Asians in all the AZA facilities that still house them together and maintain control of all the elephants in their system.
To the many folks offering their congratulations with the announcement that Connie and Shaba will be going to San Diego together…this is not a victory. This move essentially guarantees that Connie and Shaba WILL be separated. It is predetermined and the AZA and their members will see that it happens.
For those of you who don’t know, as a point of reference…, When San Diego was forming a new herd in 2009, combining two small herds of Asians together, they chose to include African elephant Tembo with her 2 bonded Asian herd mates of 27 years. Their reasons were the same for why we want Connie and Shaba to remain together.
Long ago, prior to the PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) proposal, when my co-organizer and I met with the director of the Reid Park Zoo, Susan Basford, we questioned this mixed herd. Could Shaba join Connie there? Could they be integrated together in Tucson and get a waiver like San Diego? She informed us that San Diego was planning on transferring Tembo out and was actively looking for another zoo for her. We were told the same thing by Reid Park Zoo’s Education Coordinator Jed Dodds. We were shocked by this and felt terrible for Tembo and her bonded herd mates.
In our correspondence with San Diego when asked if Shaba could join Connie we were told that “even though animals of other species are known to form bonds, they quickly abandon their former comrades to be with their own kind.”
NOW, on the heels of this announcement to send Connie and Shaba to San Diego, in the City of Tucson memorandum from Parks and Rec director Fred Gray it states:
San Diego remains confident that when given the opportunity to socialize with members of her own species Connie will bond well with fellow elderly Asian elephants. Similarly, they expect Shaba will find companionship with their single African “Tembo.” Experts will continue to evaluate individual animal behavior and relationships, as well as the needs of the entire Species Survival Plan, as future placement decisions are made for Shaba and Tembo together.
That’s not a typo! It says “as future placement decisions are made for Shaba and Tembo”! The African elephants will be transferred meaning an ultimate separation for Connie and Shaba.
They may be leaving together and living in the same exhibit for awhile, but once the heat is off and some time passes they will do exactly what they want–which is to isolate them with their own species. This can happen with no oversight, but if concerns were raised , the zoo “experts” will find any way to justify it–despite what every expert outside of zoo culture knows about elephants.
Zoos inherently create unnatural situations. Connie and Shaba–nor Tembo–should not be victims of humanities slow learning curve.
Nothing can replace Connie and Shaba’s bond.
We plan to keep moving towards what will guarantee the preservation of Connie and Shaba’s bond, prevent future transfers and in giving them the best quality of life possible. PAWS is a real solution.
We feel as longtime Citizens of Tucson and with all they have already been through in life, Connie and Shaba deserve this.”
Shuman also has an opinion piece in this week’s Tucson Weekly which discusses her contact with Bob Barker (Price is Right/animal lover) and his willingness to match funds if the elephants are sent to an elephant sanctuary where they will be together — no compromises. A zoo is not a sanctuary.
To weigh in on this still brewing controversy, contact the City Council