While it's too bad for the visitors in the sense that they won't get to see elephants, the Detroit Zoo's decision to stop keeping elephants in captivity is a welcome one:
DETROIT (Reuters) - The Detroit Zoo will become the first major zoo to stop exhibiting elephants on ethical grounds because they can develop arthritis and stress-related ailments in captivity, officials said on Thursday.
The Detroit Zoo has one of the largest facilities in the country, but its Asian elephants Winky and Wanda still have recurring foot problems due to the cold weather, Director Ron Kagen told Reuters.
In the wild, elephants roam vast areas, live in large families, and exhibit some of the same social traits as humans such as forming friendships and mourning for their dead.
"Elephants seem to be intelligent and even social in ways that are similar to humans," Kagen said. "Elephants can suffer from similar things to what we suffer from when we're in difficult environments."
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"If we don't feel like we can (keep elephants), then the question is, who can and how?," he said. "For us, there really is a big question about whether elephants should be in captivity at all."
Even the San Diego Wild Animal Park, which has a tremendous amount of land set aside for its animals, keeps its elephants penned up in relatively small areas.
I used to like going to the San Diego Zoo, but a few years ago, when my wife and I went, I saw one of the Asian elephants reach around the fence-door and tug on the padlock . . . . It was so terrible seeing that the elephant seemed to know what device was keeping it incarcerated. I haven't been able to go back since then.