Zoo Troubles

Controversies and issues in Sanctuaries and zoos

Explore our research and expert interviews to learn more about the problems with contemporary zoos and why we advocate instead for animal sanctuaries.

Animals Today February 2, 2020. How zoos harm elephants. Legal help for animal advocacy.

How zoos harm eleph

Lori begins by welcoming back to the show Will Anderson with the elephant program at In Defense of Animals (IDA). Will and Lori discuss IDA’s 2019 review of the worst North American zoos for elephants and the cruel realities of keeping these majestic creatures in captivity. It’s a pretty bleak picture.

There are solitary elephants suffering in misery all over the country in zoos, circuses, sham sanctuaries, and “petting zoos.”

Will explains how each of us can help end the cruelty of elephant captivity. In Defense of Animals makes a difference for animals all over the world through their hard-hitting campaigns, direct rescue, and sanctuary care.

We must not let elephant exploitation and abuse persist. These cruel and greedy institutions must be brought to justice! ants.

David Ebert and friends, courtesy of David Ebert.
(Featured image: Roger Williams Park Zoo 2019. CREDIT In Defense of Animals.)

Legal help for animal advocacy.

Lori’s next guest is David Ebert, co-founder of the Animal Defense Partnership (ADP). Founded in 2016 with Joel Litman, this organization offers pro bono legal services to animal advocacy groups in a wide range of legal matters to organizations and sanctuaries as they do their work. David goes on to describe their efforts (with IDA) on behalf of the elephant, Happy, who has been confined at the Bronx Zoo for decades.

From their website: ADP’s mission is to contribute their legal and professional training and experience to the greatest extent and best of their ability to the growing effort to protect animals from cruelty and suffering in all forms and wherever occurring. ADP’s growing client base now includes dozens of non-profits that protect and advocate for animals; run sanctuaries and rescues; and support plant-based eating. And, since its founding, ADP has provided $1,500,000+ in pro bono legal services to its clients.

The Animal Defense Partnership has engaged in various projects seeking to release isolated captive elephants and place them in accredited elephant sanctuaries, either in California’s Performing Animal Welfare Sanctuary or Tennessee’s The Elephant Sanctuary.

David also shares his personal transformative journeys to Rwanda and Uganda, which included close encounters with gorillas and elephants.

Animals Today January 20, 2018. The ten worst zoos for elephants. Updating California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. Top bird watching sites worldwide.

The show begins with Lori’s discussion with Toni Frohoff, PhD., Elephant Campaign Director at In Defense of Animals. Each year, IDA publishes its list of the worst North American zoos for elephants, and sadly, this year’s list demonstrates that the horrendous conditions for elephants in so many zoos continues.

In 2017, there was indeed some good news for elephants, such as Ringling Bros. shutting down and the states of Illinois and New York passing prohibitions on the use of elephants for entertainment. But zoos are diverting resources that ought to be used to support and protect wild herds and their habitats. Zoos claim to help conservation, but Frohoff explains how that is simply false.

Then, Peter welcomes Ashley Welgan, with the Humane Society of the United States. Ten years ago, California Prop 2 passed (becoming The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act) which gave certain farmed animals a bit more space in their enclosures. Signatures are now being collected for a new measure that would be the strongest farm animal protection law in the world, upgrading California’s animal and food safety laws by requiring that all pork, veal and eggs sold in the state come from cage-free sources, regardless of where it was produced. Polling by the HSUS indicates that 72% of Californians will support this measure. The required 600,000 signatures must be collected by April 21, 2018. The campaign is called Prevent Cruelty California.

Peter then has good news about the Vancouver Aquarium’s welcomed decision to stop confining cetaceans. But, Lolita, still in the Miami Seaquarium, lost a challenge which would secure her retirement in a sanctuary. Finally, Lori and Peter discuss some of the top bird watching locations around the world.


Animals Today July 30, 2016. Humane animal idioms. Rays slaughtered for sport. Criticizing the functions of contemporary zoos. International Society for Animal Rights.

Inspired by Anthony Weiner’s recent use of the phrase, “beat him like a rented mule,” we discuss a variety of idioms concerning animals, hoping to find interesting, humane alternatives to ones like “killing two birds with one stone.”

Then Lori speaks with Mary Finelli founder and President of Fish Feel. Chesapeake Bay cownose rays are being slaughtered by bow fishers during senseless cruel contests. The rays are docile, and not responsible for the decreasing oyster population as has been claimed.

Author Barbara King then joins Lori to discuss her ideas on the major issues facing zoos. Her upcoming book is titled Personalities on the Plate – The Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat. King is trying to broaden the discussion about what happens to animals at zoos and indeed, what the future of zoos should be.

The show concludes with a talk with Susan Dapsis, President of International Society for Animal Rights, ISAR. The organization was charted over 50 years ago, making it one of the oldest animal welfare organizations in the US. Lori and Susan discuss ISAR’s worldwide activities, including International Homeless Animals’ Day. This year it takes place on August 280.10462.DaytimeCloseUp.ES-KANSAS-NO-29TH-STREET-FS20th.

Animals Today June 15, 2014 Center for Biological Diversity takes aim at Wildlife Services. Injuries at zoos and the law.

On this show, Lori welcomed two outstanding guests. First was Tim Ream, Staff Attorney, Endangered Species Program at the Center for Biological Diversity. Four groups have filed a petition with US government officials demanding better regulation of and transparency from Wildlife Services. Many people do not know that Wildlife Services, a federal agency under the USDA, kills millions of animals each year, including wolves, bobcats, otters, eagles and bears. Tim  explained how the agency operates, how difficult it has been to get good information from it, and what they hope to achieve with the petition. We think you will find the information in this interview shocking! Visit Center for Biological Diversity here.

Then, Danny Lutz, Litigation Fellow at Animal Legal Defense Fund joined Lori to discuss legal aspects related to people getting injured or killed at zoos. Recently, a confidential settlement was reached between the family of Maddox Derkosh and the Pittsburgh zoo. Maddox was killed when fell into the African painted dogs exhibit two years ago. Visit ALDF here.

Plus, military dogs get high-tech jackets, a service dog’s “accident” at 20,000 feet forces an emergency landing, and more animal news.

Tim Ream
Tim Ream
Daniel Lutz
Daniel Lutz

Animals Today November 23, 2021. Wild elephants captured to become zoo exhibits. Growing use of comfort dogs in court. Animal facts you need to know.

It was recently disclosed that the Namibian Government auctioned off 57 elephants caught from the wild, with the intention to export 42 of them to foreign zoos.

With the widespread awareness about the cruelty of keeping wild elephants in captivity, this news is both shocking and tragic.

Elephant expert and President of Humane Society International, Jeff Flocken stated, “African elephants are intelligent, sentient animals with highly developed emotional complexity, and strong social and family bonds that last a lifetime. It is unconscionable cruelty to subject these animals to brutal and traumatic capture, separating them from their families, and condemning them to lifelong captivity for the sake of human amusement.”

Recall that in 2016, 18 elephants were captured in the Kingdom of Swaziland, only to be shipped to three zoos in the US, an event that was roundly condemned by advocates worldwide. And around that time, the Ringling Bros Circus began the process of retiring their elephants. So, there was a feeling of optimism that perhaps things were looking up for elephants in the wild. Unfortunately, this news from Namibia shatters those dreams, as Lori describes.

Zoos often justify keeping elephants in captivity by claiming it promotes conservation of elephants in the wild. Lori explains how this is an utter fallacy.

Lori then broadens her discussion to criticize most contemporary zoos as extremely cruel to their confined animals and failing in their stated “missions” of education and conservation. Lori advocates wild animal sanctuaries as an alternative and supports efforts to strictly enforce the terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Fauna and Fauna (CITES).

Peter then welcomes attorney Mark Momjian to discuss the growing use of dogs in courtrooms in a support capacity for witnesses giving testimony. Pennsylvania is the latest state to advance the use of specially trained dogs in court, in selected cases. This is a rapidly evolving area of law. To conclude, join Peter to test your animal knowledge as Lori presents another tortuous and revealing pop quiz.
Captive elephant in zoo Captive elephant in zoo

Animals Today September 14, 2019. Elephants in Captivity and CITES: Banning the export of wild elephants from Africa.

This show features elephant expert Will Anderson, with In Defense of Animals, who provides the background and events leading up to an important new international agreement to limit the exportation of wild elephants from Africa to the US, China and other countries.

Elephants in Captivity

Lori begins covering a few key events related to elephants in captivity, including the decline of Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which, after substantial public pressure, retired all its elephants in 2016 and then shut its doors in 2018.

She then goes on to tell the 2016 episode in which 17 elephants captured in Swaziland, Africa, were delivered to three US zoos, to live unnatural lives in captivity. (Eighteen were captured, one died in transit). Even though there is growing awareness that elephants in zoos endure isolation, stress, and relative confinement, elephant exhibits are still common and are actively promoted by many zoos in the US.

CITES: Banning the export of wild elephants from Africa.

Will Anderson then joins in to explain and celebrate the new CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) agreement to banning the export of wild elephants from Africa. Will explains how, at the last hour, the countries of the European Union were persuaded to sign on for the ban, assuring its passage. Will goes on to describe how the US, represented by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, voted “no”, because, he believes the Service represents the interests of the Association for Zoos and Aquariums, and not the wild elephants.

According to Will, the manner in which baby elephants are ripped from their mothers and herds is “brutal and violent.” Will also covers many related aspects of elephant conservation. To help elephants in the wild, Will suggests supporting organizations worldwide that protect elephants and their environments, and of course, not patronizing the zoos which hold them.

Animals Today – Sunday February 16, 2014: Adam Roberts criticizes the killing of the Copenhagen Zoo giraffe. Stacy Wolf discusses big New York cockfighting bust and bird rescue.

On this show, two wonderful guests appeared. First, Adam Roberts joined Lori to discuss the killing of Marius, a healthy juvenile giraffe in Copenhagen’s zoo. Worldwide shock and criticism has followed this incredibly horrifying and unnecessary event. Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and Chairman of the Board, Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, will explain how the zoo justified this action and what needs to be done to reform an industry where such acts are considered acceptable.

Then, Peter interviewed Stacy Wolf, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Group about the huge cockfighting bust and rescue in New York State. More than 3000 birds have been rescued in “Operation Angry Birds,” and so far 7 arrests have been made. Visit ASPCA here.

Plus, Peter and Lori reviewed unbelievable comments from the European Association for Zoos and Aquaria and the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria related to (and defending) the killing of Marius. Apparently, now zoos have adopted, as part of their mission, teaching children where their meat comes from! Peter also presented other animal news items of the week.

Adam RobertsAdam Roberts


Lets Rethink How Zoos Work! – Animals Today Radio

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