From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1996:
One of our cover stories this month deals with the ongoing process of strategic disengagement, on both sides, from the 200-year-old battle over animal use in laboratory research not as a matter of either side abandoning goals, but as a matter of recognizing that common goals may be achieved more readily if the conflict is less intense.
ANIMAL PEOPLE over the past year has advanced 10 suggestions for strategic disengagement in a manner which would simultaneously meet the major practical demands of the animal rights community and the major needs of biomedical research. They are based largely on inclinations already evident among both activists and researchers. Read more
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1995:
San Francisco SPCA wins hands down
In our continuing war against more legislation and law enforcement aimed at pet owners, we sent a recent update of our pamphlet 20 Questions to the Progressive Animal Welfare Society in Lynnwood, Washington. We had taken data from the Animal Legislation Awareness Network report entitled An Analysis of King County, WA Animal Control Ordinance 10423. We received a call from PAWS’ Lisa Wathne, who offered to send us the 1994 Annual Report of King County Animal Control, which thanks to her, we now have. The euthanasia numbers in the two reports agree.
Our conclusion from analysis of the ALAN report, which covered just one shelter in King county, was that, “There is
certainly no evidence that the tougher legislation has made significant improvement in reducing euthanasias.”
As we have been challenged by a number of people on this conclusion, we were very anxious to see if the King County report would cause us to change our stance on such matters as high license fees, door-to-door license enforcement, and public awareness campaigns to encourage licensing, all of which are central features of the celebrated King County anti-pet overpopulation ordinance.What have we found? The report claims, “Dramatic initial success allowed for the continuation of the programs…Figures for this second annual report show further improvements in all areas
targeted by Ordinance 10423.”
But the program cost, for 1994, was $243,000, and the revenue obtained by license fee increases was $200,000. The program cost much more than it brought it. And consider how many animal lives were saved. In 1993, there were 9,032 shelter euthanasias, and in 1994, only 8,738, a one-year reduction of 3.26%. But in the
same period, according to statistics ANIMAL PEOPLE published in June 1994, the national average euthanasia reduction rate was 5.88%.
Without a program, the rest of the nation reduced euthanasias at almost twice the King County pace.
And now for the shocker. King County euthanized 294 less animals, at a cost of $826.53 per life saved. Dividing total budget by adoptions, the San Francisco SPCA spends, on average, $600 per animal adopted, and kills no adoptable or treatable animals, while running 54 other programs that help reduce animal suffering throughout the city. Even if you only count the net loss from the King County program, $146 per animal saved, that could cover free neutering and licensing for 294 animals with savings of $50 per animal left over.
There are several other shelters in King County besides the county animal control shelter, and we don’t have complete shelter statistics for the whole jurisdiction, hence we are unable to compare the King County results with national norms in any meaningful way.
But we did call PAWS to verify our interpretation of the cost figures. Checking further with King County Animal Control, we were told that the first year and a half was more expensive because they had start-up costs, and there were some license tracking problems that may have inflated the figures, and they expect better results this year. The only firm conclusion we can draw is that the King County ordinance was correctly evaluated in our original statement. The new
statistics only make our evaluation more negative.
By contrast, the SF/SPCA has maintained an 18.5% annual reducation rate in euthanasias, citywide, and is against mandatory licensing. Why? Because the poor are unable to pay high license fees, and are consequently afraid to use low-cost neutering programs through which noncompliance with licensing requirements might be detected, making them vulnerable to fines that they can’t afford, either.
The following table compares the percentage of animals entering shelters who leave alive via redemption, adoption, and euthanasia, together with our estimate of maximum possible success:
National King S. F. Ultimate
% redeemed 16.6% 15.6% 10.6% 10.6%
% adopted 20.9% 17.1% 53.9% 63.9%
% euth. 62.5% 68.0% 35.6% 25.5%
We do not have shelter statistics for the whole of King County, so cannot make a comparison based on national normalized data. We do have the numbers of pets entering shelters and euthanized per year per 1,000 human residents for the U.S. as a whole, San Francisco, and Washington state, which are as follow:
National Washington San Francisco
Entries: 29.97 30.82 16.70
Euthanized: 20.38 18.49 6.18
San Francisco wins hands down in the fight to reduce euthanasias, and the San Francisco polices are directly opposite to the tough-law/blame-the-public/more-animal-control-with-door-to-door, etcetera: less legislation, not more; an end to mandatory licensing, not door-to-door enforcement; and more service, not more lobbying.
We also note that the King County neutering voucher program is a dismal failure, with only 633 vouchers redeemed (11.2%) of the 5,654 handed out. Our tiny organization in rural Butte County, California, achieves that much. This indicates to us that poor people, those the voucher program should target, are not licensing their animals because of the fees involved, and are then afraid to use the vouchers. It is not clear to the public whether the $25 King County vouchers are a rebate on the $55 unaltered license fee or are given without requiring the purchase of a license. And for all the effort of door-to-door canvasing, the King County licensing compliance rate is still officially estimated to be about 33%. That two-thirds of the pet-owning public do not support this program should send a message to elected representatives.
–Lewis R. Plumb
Promotion of Animal Welfare Society
Get a clue!
I feel that higher licensing fees create an ever-smaller base of support for pet population control programs as compliance drops. A review of the Sacramento animal control budget indicated that license revenue dropped by $20,000 when the fee went up 33% in 1993. Only canvasing brought revenues back up. Yet animal control stated
that they didn’t think doubling the current unaltered licensing fee would harm license sales. I predict compliance will drop and revenue too, and animal control will do more canvasing, have increased enforcement costs, and seek a bigger budget. Am I the only person who sees that with the majority of licenses being sold at the lower altered rate, and salary plus overhead and vehicle costs for animal control officers close to $70,000 per year here, that canvasing is
The poor can’t afford to neuter or license, or reclaim their animals from animal control, which costs nearly $100 if an unaltered animal isn’t licensed, so the poor relinquish lost pets. Then animal control comes back and says, “See, we have all these unclaimed animals, which cost us money. Aren’t people awful? Let’s raise fees to force them to be responsible.” Meanwhile the poor pick up more animals from the readily available pool of free animals.
Animal control policies perpetuate the problem. Debating the new Sacramento licensing structure, I said that your idea of “Mobile vets at combat pay” (editorial, March 1994) is the answer. An HSUS representative said flat out that anyone who doesn’t have $50 for neutering shouldn’t keep pets. I find such an attitude extremely inhumane. I have been poor, fortunately temporarily, and I am offended that someone cannot understand that there are people who don’t have credit or a spare $50, but need the comfort that pets provide. Kim Sturla of the Fund for Animals committed what I consider a Freudian slip when she said, “We need to spay and neuter people on welfare,” tee hee hee.
I went through all the information about positive incentives versus coercion, the San Francisco Adoption Pact, cost/benefit of neuter/release, etcetera, with the animal control director, who admitted that most animal pick-ups are from poor neighborhoods. But she knew someone who was middle-class, whose cat had kittens by accident, so out the window went my statistics on frequency and probability.
As to the San Francisco Adoption Pact, she said she completely disagrees with Richard Avanzino and doesn’t believe they really have zero euthanasia of healthy animals. This is widespread, as are the beliefs that the SF/SPCA has city animal control do all the killing so that they can look good, and that it’s only because SF/SPCA has money that they can do what they do.
Get a clue! They have the money because people support an organization that demonstrates effectiveness. San Francisco has proven that proper policy and management can solve the pet overpopulation problem. I am frustrated that money is wasted, people are wrongly blamed, and animals are needlessly dying because of demonstrably bad policy.
–Margaret Anne Cleek
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1994:
WASHINGTON D.C.–Announcing that a three-year probe “has implicated the nation’s best-known zoos as suppliers of exotic animals to hunting ranches,” the Humane Society of the U.S. has made recent headlines across the country–but the facts fall short of the sensational charges.
HSUS alleged that 24 zoos had sold animals to so-called canned hunts. Of the 24, however, seven had already terminated links to canned hunts that were disclosed years ago by other investigators. The allegations against another 10 zoos remain unsubstantiated more than two months after they were named by the periodical HSUS Reports, despite HSUS investigator Richard Farinato’s August 24 promise to ANIMAL PEOPLE that details would be forthcoming. Several of the zoos deny making such sales; one of them, the Knoxville Zoo, had cancelled such a sale before it was completed.
Of the seven zoos that were implicated in substantiated sales to canned hunts, only two, the San Francisco Zoo and Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, were involved in either multiple transactions or the sale of more than four animals. Only a handful of sales occurred within the past two years. Only the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Illinois, acknowledged awareness of having sold an animal who might be hunted.
The HSUS allegations were amplified by an August 19 U.S. Newswire statement, timed to boost the August 20 introduction of H.R. 4497, the “Captive Exotic Animal Protection Act of 1994,” by Rep. George Brown (D-California) and 15 co-sponsors. Adapted from the “Canned Hunt Prohibition Law of 1992,” which died in the last Congress, the bill would ban interstate and international traffic in exotic wildlife to stock hunting ranches–many of which are essentially shooting pens. The bill has virtually no chance of passage this late in the current Congress, which will close in mid-October, and the principal author, Rep. Don Edwards (D-California) is retiring at the close of the session.”As enablers of the canned hunting industry,” charged HSUS vice president for governmental affairs Wayne Pacelle, “the zoos are as guilty as the hunters who pay to pull the trigger.”
Returned American Zoo and Aquarium Association executive director Sydney Butler, “Mr. Pacelle knows full well that the AZA is vehemently opposed to canned hunts and holds any violations of its policy as a direct ethics code violation, which can result in the loss of accreditation and membership.” Butler said AZA would study H.R. 4497 before issuing a position on it, but indicated that he saw no reason to oppose it.
As of mid-September, AZA spokesperson Jane Ballentine told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “HSUS has not written to our Ethics Board requesting an investigation into their allegations. Many reporters have wondered why, since they are making such a huge deal out of this issue. We can’t help but have our own internal theories.”
Farinato and HSUS vice president John Grandy informed ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton in April at the White Oak Conference on Zoos and Animal Protection that they were preparing an anti-zoo offensive for this fall–regardless of developments at the conference, which brought together a select group of leaders in the captive wildlife and animal protection communities. After the first day of the conference found most participants in agreement on major
issues, Grandy and Farinato privately urged Clifton to “lead the attack” the next day, claiming that for political reasons they and Pacelle had to “maintain cover” until fall. Clifton responded that his role was to report the news, not to make it, and that the HSUS strategy showed bad faith–especially after the AZA had repeatedly strengthened its ethics code prohibition on selling animals to canned hunts, over the objections of some highly influential members.
HSUS pledged to fight canned hunts as far back as April 25, 1973, when then-HSUS zoological representative Sue Pressman wrote to longtime Kansas humane activist Mona Lefebvre that the organization was engaged in “major investigative” work on the subject, with the goal of getting “some laws” passed. Pressman, still outspokenly critical of canned hunts, long since left HSUS, and now heads the Association of Sanctuaries. HSUS meanwhile produced neither major revelations nor legislation for more than 20 years, and in fact was conspicuously absent on November 19, 1991, when Congressional Friends of Animals hosted a briefing on canned hunts for fellow members of Congress. Participants included representatives from AZA (then known as the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums), Friends of Animals, American SPCA president Roger Caras, and Fund for Animals president Cleveland Amory.
In the interim the then-growing commerce between zoos and canned hunts came to light through the work of investigative reporters including Clifton, who published frequent exposes of the traffic in both U.S. and Canadian media between 1981 and 1991. AAZPA responded with increasingly strict guidelines discouraging such transactions, and in 1990 backed words with deeds by stripping Arkansas wildlife broker Earl Tatum of his accreditation, for officially undisclosed reasons, just after CBS 60 Minutes revealed that Tatum and another dealer, James Fouts, of Kansas, had sold animals from the San Diego Zoo and the Oklahoma City Zoo at auctions frequented by canned hunt proprietors. Fouts, fined $2,500 by the USDA in 1985 for illegally importing a parrot, was never accredited by AAZPA. Informed of the dealers’ canned hunt link by 60 Minutes, both zoos severed relations with Tatum and Fouts in November
1989–two months before the 60 Minutes segment aired.
Already embarrassed, the San Diego Zoo was hit again on the eve of the September 1991 AAZPA annual meeting–held in San Diego–when former San Diego Zoo elephant handler Lisa Landres, working for FoA, disclosed a 1985 deal that sent 22 animals directly to a canned hunt in Oregon. FoA also revealed several one-and-two-animal transactions between the San Diego Zoo and other alleged canned hunt suppliers–Jergen Schultz, co-owner of the
Catskill Game Farm, just south of Albany, New York, and Arizona auction dealer Pat Hoctor. Hoctor also publishes Exotic Animal News, a periodical advertising the availability of animals to an audience including canned hunt proprietors. The Oregon canned hunt was already defunct, and the San Diego Zoo no longer had any
relationship with Hoctor. It immediately ceased dealings with the Catskill Game Farm, to which it had often sold animals since 1952.
Zoos crack down
The September 1991 AAZPA meeting also came just three weeks after publication of a widely distributed and quoted Clifton expose of canned hunts and the zoo connection, crediting AAZPA for progress against canned hunts, but noting the ambivalent relationship between leading AAZPA members and major hunting ranches, several of which belong to AAZPA Species Survival Plans. Jacksonville Zoo director Dale Tuttle, a key figure in both AAZPA and SSP administration, defends hunting ranches as a way to make species conservation pay for itself.
Finally, however, the balance tipped against Tuttle. “AAZPA strongly opposes disposal of exotic wildlife to individuals
solely for the purpose of shooting,” the group resolved. “Specimens should not be sold, traded, or otherwise transferred to any organization or individual for the purpose of sport, trophy, or any other form of hunting. Such action constitutes a violation of the AAZPA Code of Professional Ethics.”
The San Diego Zoo adopted a similar policy, strengthening a 1976 ban on selling animals to nonaccredited facilities. Since November 1991 the San Diego Zoo has required every private purchaser to sign a contract stipulating that the animals will not be hunted, and that if a ranch begins to allow hunting, as the Dale Priour ranch in Texas did after obtaining two animals from the San Diego Zoo, it must return the former zoo animals and their offspring.
Further, president Douglas Myers pledged, “We will compile a list of known hunting ranches to serve as a red flag guide, giving names and addresses for us to avoid when searching for proper places to send zoo animals. We will check regularly to find out who has applied for federal permits to cull protected species. We will cross-reference that list with the list of private facilities receiving zoo animals. This will provide a starting point for double-checking on who is allowing hunts and who will not be sent zoo animals.”
Only once since 1991 has a former San Diego Zoo animal turned up at a canned hunt–a European boar acquired by Robert Naud of Brigham, Quebec. According to San Diego Zoo public relations director Jeff Jouett, the boar “was sent to a man named Ed Novak, of Cairo, New York. The animal next was sold to Mark Smith at Bradwood Farms in Reddick, Florida. Bradwood Farms evidently went through a bankruptcy/foreclosure proceeding. That’s where Naud picked up the boar, to the best of our knowledge. All of these transactions occurred prior to November 1991. Each person involved–Novak, Smith, and Naud–was promptly notified of our disgust and distress, and all business dealings with each were immediately ended. We also notified AAZPA of our findings so that other zoos may be aware of the names and reputations of the people involved.”
The 1991 AAZPA and San Diego Zoo actions severed the zoo traffic to canned hunts, for the most part, though many more older deals were disclosed during the next year by FoA, the Houston Chronicle, and the activist group Voice for Animals, based in San Antonio, Texas. Most compromised, then and now, was the San Antonio Zoo, whose board of directors, Voice for Animals reported, includes alleged hunting ranch owners David Bamberger, Rugeley Ferguson, Mrs. Jack Guenther, Buddy Jordan, Betty (Mrs. Robert) Kelso, Leon Kopecky, Red McCombs, Scott Petty Jr., and Louis Stumberg.
McCombs, VfA charged, lent his address to alleged seller of zoo animals to canned hunts Larry Johnson. Jordan, whose name resurfaced in the HSUS investigation, now denies involvement with canned hunts, but boasted in a 1989
interview with the San Francisco television news station KPIX that he made “big money” selling animals to such hunts, and was named as a supplier to canned hunts by the Houston Chronicle in 1992. He also admitted recently to Tampa Tribune reporter Nanette Woitas that while he does not sell the animals he breeds from former zoo stock
“direct to a hunting range,” he doesn’t necessarily know where they all end up. In February 1992 Jordan reportedly sold $40,000 worth of animals to the Triple 7 ranch–a canned hunt where as many as 2,500 exotic animals are killed each year.
Kelso is wife of Robert Kelso, whose Auerhahn Ranch purportedly hosts guest hunters from Safari Club International;
bought 40 hooved exotic animals from the San Antonio Zoo between 1985 and 1991; and in 1992 was discovered by the Houston Chronicle to have purchased animals from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the National Zoo, and the Philadelphia Zoo. All three zoos demanded the return of the animals upon learning of Kelso’s involvement in hunting, but seven antelope obtained from Cheyenne were already dead, four of them supposedly from causes other than hunting. The Bamberger link is most problematic for AZA. On the one hand, Bamberger runs one of the biggest and best-known hunting ranches in the U.S.; on the other, he belongs to the SSP for the Arabian oryx, managed by Tuttle.
In March 1992 the AAZPA board moved to further strengthen the anti-hunting guideline. According to an internal discussion paper summarizing the debate that ensued throughout the next year, “The word solely” rendered the September 1991 statement “meaningless as a guideline for professional behavior,” because some zoos were claiming they sold animals to canned hunts “for money, not solely for shooting,” or “well, mostly for game viewing,” or “for
breeding, not solely for shooting.”
In May 1993, the board adopted the present ethical statement, affirming that it, “strongly opposes the sale, trade,
or transfer of animals from zoos and aquariums to organizations or individuals which allow the hunting of animals directly from or bred at zoos and aquariums.”
Achieving passage of the statement, the discussion paper indicates, required overcoming three categories of resistance. First, it noted, both zoos and the public must realize that, “The unpredictability of sex ratio, fecundity or the behavioral adequacy of prospective animal offspring means that significant surplus will be produced in any zoo or aquarium not being managed for extinction,” at least at the current level of reproductive science.
Second, the paper explained, zookeepers often suffer from the same illusions about a mythical animal-heaven on a farm somewhere that afflicts the general public: “Zoos that have sent surplus animals to a place where they might be hunted have usually done so to afford them a longer lifespan and, perhaps, the chance to reproduce. Payment for such surplus is helpful to the maintenance of long-term endangered species propagation programs–but it also encourages the false belief that zoos and aquariums create unnecessary surplus to make money. Usually unexpressed, but perhaps most important,” the paper added, “it is both difficult and disheartening for zoo and aquarium biologists who spend their lives caring for animals to have to destroy them. No matter how humane, culling has seemed an extremely poor alternative in view of the fancied benefits of disposal to a ranch.”
The paper pointed out that the reality of hunting ranches is often “the badly aimed wounding of tame animals lured by feeding bells and buckets of corn–or even the shooting of big cats in cages. AAZPA members have observed,” it added, “that few such hunting organizations can provide those who send them animals any assurance of professional animal management or humane animal care.”
Finally, the paper noted, “Only six or seven ranches currently sustain SSP animals or participate in endangered species programs. Nevertheless, the potential of their vast acreages to extend zoo efforts for vanishing ungulates must not be overlooked…Some of these ranches may permit hunting of surplus exotic ungulates as well as deer, turkeys, and other native species.”
As a concession to the Tuttle faction, the AZA ethics code accordingly “does not apply to those individuals or organizations which allow hunting of indigenous game species (but not from zoo and aquarium stocks) and established exotic species such as (but not limited to) whitetailed deer, quail, rabbits, geese, and such long-introduced species as boar, ring-necked pheasant, chukar, trout, etc.”
The Catskill Game Farm
Since the current code was adopted, only four zoos on the HSUS list–the San Francisco Zoo, Busch Gardens, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, New York–are alleged to have sold animals who may have gone to canned hunts. Of these, all but Busch Gardens sold the animals to the Catskill Game Farm.
“Catskill assured me none of our animals were sold to canned hunts,” said Seneca Park Zoo director Dan Michalowski, who quit dealing with Catskill anyway and said legal action could follow if the animals had gone to hunting ranches, inasmuch as Catskill had signed an agreement that neither the animals in question nor their offspring would ever be hunted. New York state Department of Environmental Conservation records show that of the three Seneca Park Zoo animals sold to Catskill since 1992, a 13-year-old lion was euthanized due to injuries received in a fight with another lion, a male ringtailed lemur drowned, and a female ringtailed lemur remains at Catskill.
Catskill co-owner Kathie Schulz, whose father founded the facility in 1933, said she was unaware of having sold any animals to canned hunts, despite repeated allegations of having done so, and added that HSUS will hear from her lawyer. But she later admitted that a related firm run by her husband Jurgen Schulz sells animals “to whatever the needs are of the public.”
The San Francisco Zoo also sold two nyalas to Buddy Jordan.By far the most serious HSUS allegations–other than the well-known situation involving the San Antonio Zoo–pertained to Busch Gardens, which sold animals to both Buddy Jordan and Earl Tatum, nearly four years after the latter lost his AZA accreditation. Jordan apparently bought 87 animals from Busch between 1990 and 1992. Tatum may have acquired hundreds of Busch animals over the past two decades. Both Jordan and Tatum signed the AZA’s standard agreement that animals obtained from Busch would not
be sold at auctions or be hunted, but Arkansas state veterinary records indicate that Tatum did in fact sell at least one kudu bought from Busch in 1992 to Texas hunting ranch owner Jack Moore.
As many as 4,000 hunting ranches operate in the U.S., of which about three-fourths specialize in captive bird-shooting. Of the rest, most either breed the animals killed on their premises themselves or buy animals through an extensive and fast-growing network of private breeders and exotic wildlife auctions. The foundation stock for this network did mostly come from zoos, but mostly prior to the formation of the AZA, which from its inception has worked to halt the release of animals from accredited zoos to unaccredited facilities and to promote longterm coordinated breeding strategies to reduce the numbers of surplus animals.
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1994:
by John Lukas
Director, White Oak Conservation Center, Yulee, Florida
This guest column is adapted from a cage-rattling presentation Mr. Lukas delivered to the recent White Oak conference on zoos and animal protection, hosted by the Howard Gilman Foundation.
Happiness is not a term zoo administrators and others who hold wildlife in confinement like to use. Many of us were trained to think of “happiness” as a human interpretation, linked with anthropomorphizing animals, and therefore problematic when much of what we do is oriented toward trying to get animals to behave in the manner appropriate to their own species. Nonetheless, I use the term “happiness,” because even if we have trouble suitably defining it, I believe we cannot avoid having to think about it as an essential component of animal well-being.
Well-being, by dictionary definition, is the condition of happiness, prosperity, and good health. In considering the well-being of a confined animal, we must consider both biological well-being, which encompasses the territorial, social,
nutritional, and reproductive needs of a species, and cultural well-being, which is how we as humans understand the well-being of animals in the context of our own perceptions of happiness, cleanliness, safety, and how we think animals ought to be treated.
There are five principle venues in which wild animals may be confined to protect and/or perpetuate species. Each venue includes both inherent advantages and disadvantages in our efforts to insure animal well-being, including happiness, and it is important that their functions and capabilities not be confused. A zoo, for instance, cannot become a conservation center and continue to function as a zoo. Neither should a conservation center be allowed to evolve into a zoo without making a studied choice of taking that direction. Each venue for holding wildlife has a different job to
do, and the better we understand the distinctions, the better adapted our responses will be to the problems of keeping wild animals.
In situ refers to keeping animals in their native habitat under a degree of protection that can only be insured within territorial restraints. Usually this is done within a national park or wildlife reserve. An Intensive Protection Zone is a section of native habitat, usually within government land, within which a threatened species is concentrated when it needs more protection from humans than can be provided in situ. The IPZ is defined by fences, guard posts, natural barriers, and the presence of a large, well-trained unit of wildlife guards. The IPZ connects to a larger wildlife reserve into which the animals can be moved after the threats to their survival have been controlled or eliminated.
A conservation center is an institution outside the native range of particular animals that maintains these species in semi-natural conditions, with the emphasis on scientific management to aid their survival. The overriding premise is that the needs of the animals come first. Usually, conservation centers are not open to the public. Any animal observation is strictly controlled. Nature centers exhibit native species in naturalistic surroundings to educate visitors about indigenous plants and animals. Nature centers concentrate upon topics related to ecology and human interactions with wildlife on a local level.
Zoos exhibit animals in artificial environments meant to depict each animal in a semblance of natural habitat, for both
educational and recreational objectives. Progressive zoos dedicate resources to off-exhibit breeding and research, and make each exhibit as natural and representative of the habitat of the species kept as is possible.
Biological and cultural well-being
Each species has specific biological needs that must be fulfilled for it to survive and reproduce. For most species these
needs are known and documented. How well they are satisfied determines the level of well-being for the species in confinement. Animals in situ enjoy the maximum degree of natural biological well-being. The natural biological envrionment declines as we bring the animals into increasing degrees of confinement. As the natural sources of biological well-being are lost, we provide substitutes to maintain biological well-being at lesser levels. For instance, we substitute hay for natural grass, prepared meat diets for carcasses, culverts for dens, and concrete pools for lakes.
Our success depends upon how well we understand the biological needs of each species and upon how adept we are at responding to these needs within the constraints imposed by the levels of confinement. Cultural well-being is defined for most people by the question, “Is the animal happy?” Because most conservation efforts are financed either directly or indirectly by the general public, the White Oak Conservation Center being one of the few major exceptions, it is in our paramount interest to be able to answer that question–convincingly–in the affirmative. If we hold animals in conditions where they appear to be unhappy, we will not hold public support for long, no matter how well the biological needs of the animals are met.
People seem to sense that an animal is happy when he or she has adequate space to live in; lives in a normal social grouping; is in habitat resembling the natural home of the species; eats food resembling the species’ natural diet; is in a clean environment; the environment is safe and secure; and the animal does not look or act bored.
An analysis of cultural well-being takes the biological needs of the animals, injects into them human ideas about happiness, and examines how well the composite of animal needs and human perception is reflected in the animal’s environment and behavior. This leads us to several troublesome contradictions. For example, most people believe an animal can never have too much space: people equate space with freedom. But when people come to view wildlife, they expect to be able to see the animals. In a national park or wildlife reserve, this contradiction is resolved by conditioning the animals to accept the presence of tourist vehicles or boats. This can be done because the animals are protected by law from human harm, and therefore they soon become used to the presence of another essentially neutral entity. Some animals even use tourist vehicles for their advantage, as evidenced by the cheetahs in the Masaii Mara, who use vehicles as elevated observation points from which to look for suitable prey. Thus, even in the most natural of confinement situations, where we attempt to minimize the effects of human intrusion, animal behavior is
influenced by our activity. Our objective is to seek the best balance for the species being conserved, including the sometimes restrictive consideration that someone has to pay for the conservation effort.
In an IPZ, and to a lesser extent in conservation centers such as White Oak, suitable space is given to each species, but with little emphasis on visibility and more emphasis on protection, since the goal is to increase and maintain a fragmented population at all costs. Poaching, disruption of behavior, and harassing the animals is strictly forbidden; at IPZ facilities for black rhinos in Zimbabwe, suspected poachers are shot on sight. Because IPZs and conservation centers are costly, with little means of directly raising revenue, they are not a realistic or even desirable placement for most wildlife despite the advantages they seem to offer to the most fragile or vulnerable species.
Zoos by contrast must provide high visibility. They exist to exhibit animals. Within this context, the space allocated to each species should nonetheless be the maximum available. This requires innovative and costly exhibits: a good zoo cannot be created (or recreated from a substandard existing facility) on the cheap, without a strong ongoing commitment to maintaining quality care. Most important, running a good zoo requires carefully selecting the species to be exhibited, making sure their allotted space is both biologically adequate and culturally perceived to be adequate. If
this cannot be done for a particular species, that species should not be kept.
At zoos, the more that appears natural in the animals’ lives, the more people will perceive that the animals are happy and prosperous. Selecting only species that can be afforded properly constructed exhibits, allowing a natural lifestyle, will go far in presenting a positive image to visitors. In addition to space, we must consider boredom. If an animal looks bored or sad or displays stereotypic behavior, the public will respond adversely. Such behavior is an unnatural response to an artificial environment. Improvement in space, habitat quality, food sources, social opportunities, and health care usually will eliminate the negative behavior. If not, most likely this individual or species should not be kept at the zoo level of confinement. Such animals or species should be kept in relatively close confinement only at conservation centers, in semi-natural habitat. In certain cases, even a conservation center may not be sufficient to insure well-being, and the animal should only be kept in situ, despite the accompanying risks. These cases, where
extinction is possible, pose perhaps the most painful moral dilemma facing the species conservation community.
Safety, security, and cleanliness are uniquely human considerations. Animals do not worry about their safety, other than in situations of immediate danger. Rather, they go about their lives concerned with living. Many mammals and birds clean and groom themselves, and some species keep their dens clean, but most are unconcerned with keeping or finding a clean home range. People worry about dirt because people understand the relationship between filth
and disease. People like cleanliness, and an animal in a clean environment makes us happy, so most people feel the animal also must be happy about it–although in fact the animal may have carefully marked his or her habitat and may be quite stressed at the removal of the markings.
Consideration for safety, security, and cleanliness reverse the order of which levels of confinement provide the best situation for animals as people see them. In situ areas provide little security or cleanliness. Natural factors such as predation, disease, starvation, and intra-species aggression, along with human poaching, hunting, and harassment, take a heavy toll. IPZs and conservation centers provide protection from some types of harm, but zoos offer the best overall security and the cleanest environment. Most causes of in situ mortality can be eliminated through the intensive care that good zoos provide. Thus zoo animals on average live much longer than wild animals.
This is both a blessing and a curse. Long-lived animals breed more offspring, if able to breed. They also must be
expensively kept well past their reproductive years and even past the years of their exhibit value. Here again, the perception of happiness depends more on quality of life than on quantity of years. Zoos must provide quality environments and care for all of their animals for their entire lives, if they are to be seen as providing well-being. Aged animals, like aged people, deserve special care. Planning for each animal’s retirement must begin while the animal is
If people see that a confined animal lives in natural surroundings, in natural social groups, eating natural-looking food
in a large area but remaining visible, and if the area is clean and safe, and if the animal does not appear bored or sad, then the animal must be happy. If wild animals are treated at all as we treat domestic livestock, people perceive cruelty.
One way to provide well-being as conditions of confinement become more artificial is to develop appropriate standards for confined living. Such standards should be developed not only by curators, zoologists, and ethologists, but also with input from philosophers and humane advocates. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, through Species Survival Plans, provides expertise in genetic and demographic management of captive populations. Overlooked is what each species needs to experience happiness.
In SSP master planning, a husbandry manual is formulated which describes certain basic standards to maintain a species in artificial environments. I have attended several SSP planning sessions, and feel it is detrimental to develop so-called minimum standards. The idea of “minimum” as “standard” is a contradiction if we define a standard as a “level of excellence generally regarded as right.” In basing standards on the status quo, which includes some deplorable facilities for certain species, the zoo community leaves itself open for justly deserved criticism. Husbandry manuals fall short because they describe what is done now, not what should be done. The standards for management of a species in captivity should stand by themselves, should be emulated, and should be goals to reach for. Let us call them optimum standards of confinement, or OSC. An OSC, if set by a multi-disciplinary commitee, should satisfy both the biological needs of a species and our cultural perception of how animals should be treated.
The decision to keep animals should be linked to a percentage of compliance with the OSC, as set by the committee. For instance, if the committee finds that 75% compliance with the OSC for species “A” is enough to insure the well-being of the species in a zoo setting, then zoos realizing that level of compliance could exhibit animals of species “A,” while continuing to strive toward complete realization of the OSC for that species. If a zoo could only achieve 60% compliance, it could not keep species “A.” Implementing OSC standards will be difficult and costly. But if we are to raise the level of care of the animals we confine purportedly for their own good, we must dedicate new resources and
new energy to developing and realizing optimum standards for confinement. Raising the standards of care of course becomes steadily more costly as the level of confinement increases. Here is where hard decisions lie ahead, for if we cannot provide the standard at a certain level of confinement, the animal should only be maintained in situations of less confinement. Until a standard can be met at each particular level of confinement, efforts should be concentrated on maintaining the species at those levels where the standards of well-being are already being met.
Coming from a conservation center background, I see thatconservation centers have more resources available with which to satisfy biological well-being for certain species than zoos. But for other species, conservation centers have significantly fewer resources than in situ programs. Every time the White Oak Conservation Center considers helping a new species, we go through our own OSC checklist to see if we really can provide for that species well-being. Believe me, sometimes the answer is no. We may have to let certain species fight for their survival in situ because
we cannot realistically satisfy their OSC at the zoo or conservation center level of confinement –although we can provide support to in situ conservation efforts. Other species may only be helped by conservation centers, which provide the best chance to prepare species for reintroduction into in situ situations.
Everyone working with confined wildlife needs to consider the well-being of individual animals while we consider the well-being of species. It is easy to justify less than desirable programs in the name of saving animals from extinction. However, as the human consciousness explores more respectful relationships with other species, the conservation community needs to be leading the way in developing a new covenant with wildlife, based upon dignity and well-being, and including attention to that elusive but important ideal of happiness.
(John Lukas, director of the White Oak Conservation Center since 1982, is also vice president of the International Rhino Foundation. He formerly served in various capacities with the Boston Zoological Society, the Okanagan Game Farm, and the New York Zoological Society, gaining direct experience at all levels of wildlife confinement.)
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1994:
Preventing captive animals from suffering terminal boredom has been a primary concern of zookeepers since ancient times. Excessively bored animals not only become listless and uninteresting to crowds, but also develop self-destructive behavior. For centuries–after tossing prisoners to ferocious beasts fell out of vogue–the antidote was obliging animals to earn their food by performing.
That approach too has fallen from favor, as zoos have moved toward naturalistic exhibits in an emphasis upon showing animals acting as they would in the wild. But even the best naturalistic settings are too small to offer intelligent species much variety in stimulus. Thus behavioral enrichment programs are again borrowing from the past. Since 1991, Los Angeles zoo volunteers have been making animals earn their meals again: primates must find whole fruit and oatmeal hidden beneath hay and in nooks and crannies of their quarters, polar bears must extricate fish from floating blocks of ice, and hippos forage for greenery dumped into their wading pond, instead of being piled at the side. At the Toledo Zoo meanwhile, head veterinarian Timothy Reichard notes improved health and behavior in animals who have been taught to do various tricks to facilitate frequent physical examinations. The training program, now two years old, seems to stimulate the animals’ interest in their surroundings. Reichard’s staff began by training great apes, including chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas; went to monkeys when that succeeded; and have since progressed to training
elephants, bears, sea lions, red pandas, a zebra, and a giraffe. About 40 other zoos have requested details of the Toledo Zoo techniques.
The Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle plans to open a $7.7 million “Northern Trail” exhibit this fall that will combine the naturalistic and behavioral enrichment approaches. The plans call for mountain goats to lick water from rocks moistened by hidden pipes, while bears are to fish live salmon from an artificial stream and harvest salmonberries from bushes cultivated in their cages. The latter idea may prove problematic; attempts at including actual fruit-and-flower-producing shrubbery in naturalistic exhibits elsewhere have historically failed because zoo animals tend to destroy the plants out of boredom.
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1994:
Zoo Euthanasia: The Steve Graham legacy
Detroit Zoo director saw surplus crunch coming
DETROIT, Michigan–No one ever more directly addressed the question of what to do with surplus zoo animals than former Detroit Zoo executive director Steve Graham–and no one has ever been more vilified for it. The target of frequent exposes, letter campaigns led by the Fund for Animals, almost continuous picketing by as many as 150 people at a time throughout his nine-year tenure, and several staff revolts, Graham finally quit in February 1991 following a head-on clash with the Detroit City Council, whose auditor, Roger Short, warned him on July 2, 1990, that euthanizing costly animals without council permission amounted to unauthorized destruction of city property. Graham performed several controversial euthanasias anyway, and in August 1990 poured gasoline on his own figurative funeral pyre by calling his mostly Afro-American staff “monkeys”–in a city whose population is 76% Afro-American, whose Afro-American mayor, Coleman Young, had been his most visible defender.
Graham was no diplomat, although in his first few years in Detroit he tried, authoring numerous long and essentially friendly letters to his most ardent critics, trying to explain his many controversial actions. Some never forgave Graham for taking plastic toys away from the primates and elephants during exhibition hours, because he wanted the public to see animals acting as they would in the wild. (The toys were returned at night.)
Others blistered Graham for trying to increase the zoo animals’ freedom of movement during the winter by leaving them outdoors with the onset of cold weather, to grow longer fur and become accustomed to the changing conditions. The weather changed faster than some tropical species could adapt. Frozen capybaras were found every winter from 1986 through 1988. Other animals purportedly killed or injured by cold weather included kangaroos, swans, and pelicans. “We have found animals dead in a frozen condition on mornings after a cold night,” Graham admitted, “but an animal who dies on a cold night from whatever cause will freeze by morning. When such animals are necropsied, we find that some other problem caused the death…Other members of their groups did not ‘freeze to death’, so that should be an indication that there was something physiologically wrong with those who did die.” Eventually Graham cut the winter-related death toll to near zero by changing breeding schedules so that tropical animals didn’t give birth during the winter months.
The April 1990 drowning of a chimpanzee in a protective moat brought more outrage. Graham had used the last 10 of a once large herd of wild but common African sheep called aoudads in a terminal nutrition study, fed the remains to the zoo’s carnivores, and added their climbing rock to a new naturalistic chimp area. He kept the moat, over objections from the International Primate Protection League, because of concern for liability if a chimp ever escaped. The use of the aoudads brought up another complaint. Graham had introduced a farm exhibit. After each zoo season, cows and pigs were slaughtered to feed carnivorous animals. Zoogoers objected to the slaughter of animals who had been given names and been petted all summer by children. Graham responded with an edict that no animal at the zoo should be named, to discourage emotional identification with animals by either public or staff.
Introduced culling by euthanasia
Graham caught the most flak, however, for insisting that surplus animals should be humanely euthanized if they could not be sent to other zoos accredited by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. From day one, he bucked prevailing practice by refusing to sell animals to dealers, roadside zoos, and canned hunts, which he called “shooting galleries–out of the question for reputable zoos.” In 1982 Graham sold 30 crab-eating macaques to biomedical researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, and he advertised five Japanese macaques in a research newsletter in 1987, but he eventually became critical of the use of zoo animals in laboratories, as well. “Even if an animal is placed in a behavioral, non-invasive research study,” Graham wrote in 1991, “most research projects are measured in months or at most a few years. What then happens to an animal such as a primate, who
can live up to 50 years?” And sanctuaries, Graham barked, are just no-kill shelters for wildlife, pointlessly keeping geriatric beasts far beyond their natural lifespans in crowded conditions more unnatural than those of zoos.
Revamping the Detroit Zoo surplus animal policy topped Graham’s job description when he was hired in 1982. His predecessor, Gunther Voss, quit after being accused of taking kickbacks from animal dealers who allegedly used the zoo as a wildlife warehouse. Graham brought to Detroit a background uniquely combining zoo experience with humane work. He had previously managed two other zoos–and been president of the Antietam Humane Society, in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.
“We had a contract with a veterinarian to euthanize,” Graham told Ann Sweeney of the Detroit News. “I went over there one day and found a 10-year-old kid killing the puppies and kittens. I fired the vet, and for three months, I did it myself, humanely.”
Graham learned to euthanize mothers with newborn litters by lethally injecting the mother first, then injecting each of the babies as they still clung comfortably to their mother’s warm body. As a humane society director, Graham was an outspoken advocate of the needle instead of the gas chambers and decompression chambers that were then the norm for euthanasia. Nearly 20 years later, the crusty Graham still came close to tears when recounting his euthanasia experience. But he came away from it believing humane euthanasia could be a viable and essential option for reducing zoo surplus.
Graham’s first public act at the Detroit Zoo was to euthanize three popular but aging Siberian tigers whose genetic history was too uncertain to permit their use as breeding stock. A zoo patron unsuccessfully sued him over that action. When Graham euthanized two healthy Siberian tigers in 1988 and 1989, also because they were unsuitable for breeding, the USDA reviewed the Detroit Zoo’s permit to keep endangered species. Meanwhile, Graham thinned the aoudad collection, numbering 76 when he arrived, who so densely populated their quarters that newborns were repeatedly trampled to death. He euthanized other animals as well: 282 in all during his tenure, 29% of all the animals who were removed from the collection for any reason. Among the euthanized animals, 165 were common hooved stock, whom most zoos quietly cull each winter to feed carnivores. Most of the rest were put down due to old age and/or poor health, but after the first tiger euthanasias, Graham was tagged needle-happy.
Cut zoo death rate in half
Hardly anyone ever noticed that in the nine years Graham ran the Detroit Zoo, only 2,032 animals died of any cause, compared with 4,038 deaths during the preceding decade–even as the zoo population rose from 1,432 animals at Graham’s arrival to 2,700 at his departure. He cut annual mammal mortality from 34% to 14%, cut bird mortality from 15% to 3%, and cut reptile and amphibian mortality from 40% to 1%. The difference came largely because Graham culled the oldest animals, keeping as young and vigorous a collection as possible.
This in turn led to the accusation, voiced by Doris Dixon of the Fund, that, “Graham wants mommy, daddy, baby for his exhibits,” and therefore bred animals needlessly. Instead of denying it, Graham rambled to reporters about the “considerable educational experience” for zoogoers in seeing “the mother-infant bond.” He rarely sterilized Detroit Zoo animals, instead relying upon sexual segregation for birth control, because he wanted the collection to be a repository of genetic diversity.
As far back as 1976, Graham warned fellow zookeepers that, “Surplus animals are the greatest problem facing zoos today.” While Margaret Shivener of Defenders of Animal Rights charged Graham with “irresponsible overbreeding,” Graham and Robert Wagner, then executive director of the New York Zoological Society, pushed AAZPA to adopt policies to discourage breeding except to preserve endangered species, provide collection replacements, and feed
carnivores their natural diets.
In 1987 Graham and Wagner were instrumental in getting AAZPA to adopt a code of ethics pertaining to the disposition of surplus animals that is now the primary instrument of gradually cutting off the supply of zoo-born wildlife to roadside zoos, canned hunts, and auctions. Graham was villified for that, as well, losing several close elections when he ran for AAZPA office and incurring public opposition from the San Diego Zoological Society and former Columbus Zoo director Jack Hanna, whose popular anti-euthanasia policies were achieved by releasing animals to facilities Graham considered substandard.
“It hurts all of us when he talks about euthanizing animals,” Hanna complained. “He’s saying euthanasia is the way to go. How can he say that when we are bending over backward in most zoos to explain to people that we want their public money to preserve endangered species?”
It was a familiar argument to Graham, who had already dealt with the unhappy paradox of euthanasia when obliged to kill dogs and cats at the Antietam Humane Society. Graham never liked euthanasia. He just liked the alternatives less.
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1994:
AAZPA crackdown comes too late, opening Pandora’s box
Zoo surplus stocks canned hunts, roadside exhibits, private breeders
HOOSICK FALLS, New York–The young Himalayan snow leopard paces the corn crib cage, situated at the edge of a woodlot. As roadside zoos go, his home at the Flag Acres Zoo is fairly good–comparable, even, to some accredited zoos of 30 years ago. But it isn’t where one would expect to find an apparent prime example of a highly endangered species. In fact, the snow leopard is genetically redundant “surplus,” neutered and loaned to Flag Acres by the Seneca Park Zoo of Rochester, New York–a facility accredited by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. According to Seneca Park Zoo director Dan Michalowski, the snow leopard was removed from
the captive gene pool to reduce the risk of inbreeding. A conditional loan to Flag Acres seemed preferable to euthanasia. The Seneca Park Zoo may reclaim him if at any time he appears ill-treated. The deal is a model of the AAZPA-recommended protocol for the disposition of surplus animals.
While the snow leopard’s life is far from ideal, he is lucky. Despite AAZPA efforts to curtail the traffic, zoo-bred animals still turn up shockingly often not only at roadside zoos, but also as living targets in canned hunts, as auction merchandise, in the exotic pet trade, in biomedical research laboratories, and increasingly often as drop-offs at private sanctuaries, humane societies, and sometimes even back at accredited zoos. Even more often, sanctuaries, shelters, and accredited zoos find themselves dealing with the offspring of former zoo animals, who have typically been bred in disregard of ancestry by self-proclaimed private species preservationists who also, just by the way, hope to turn a fast buck. When there proves to be little or no market for the animals, and they grow too big to be pets, the owners begin calling around, trying to give them away. Overwhelmed zoo directors–including Michalowski–now include a prerecorded message to would-be animal donors on their answering machines.
Many zoo officials admit that their surplus, whether yesterday’s or today’s, is the origin of an exotic animal population explosion that includes speculative booms–and busts–involving creatures from ostriches (see January/February 1994) to big cats, wolf hybrids, llamas, and potbellied pigs. There’s just the question of how to deal with it, amid a climate of opposition to euthanasia and acrimony over the alternatives.The solution to the zoo surplus end of the problem favored by those who see zoos as animal prisons would be to simply stop breeding. Indeed, not so long ago most zoo surplus was the product of either accidental or deliberate overbreeding. Some zoos like to keep baby animals on display; knowledge of wildlife birth control was limited; and until public consciousness was raised by the animal rights movement, few people objected to the sale of surplus animals to wherever. As recently as the mid-1980s, some accredited zoos even made a regular practice of breeding surplus animals for sale to the exotic pet trade and/or biomedical research.
Though deliberate breeding for sale is officially history at accredited zoos now, ingenuous failures of management still occur, still producing crowd-pleasing babies and a surplus with few if any acceptable markets. “We weren’t able to get the males and females separated in time, and, well, nature does take its course,” interim Detroit Zoo director Khadejah Shelby explained to Robin Fornoff of the Detroit Free Press in August 1991, touting the arrival of 40 infants of various species about eight months after she succeeded former director Steve Graham. Shelby won high marks for public relations, but when she announced the zoo would no longer euthanize surplus and would relax transfer policies, captive breeding program directors cringed. They’re the ones who manage the AAZPA-accredited Species Survival Plans, and other less formal breeding protocols, whose dual purpose is to replenish zoo wildlife populations without resorting to raids on the wild, and to perpetuate species which have often been virtually extirpated from the wild–sometimes by hunting and poaching, sometimes by habitat destruction, and sometimes by the collecting excesses of past generations of zookeepers. The hardest task before SSP administrators isn’t getting animals who only rarely and reluctantly mate in zoos to breed. Rather, it’s winning public acceptance of the constraints of economic necessity when it comes to removing creatures of overrepresented pedigree from the captive gene pool.
With the capture of endangered species from the wild approaching a virtual halt, and cage space scarce, zoos have little practical reason to keep individuals who don’t help maintain an often precarious genetic diversity. Nor can surplus animals be returned to their native habitat when they haven’t been acclimated to survive in wild conditions–or when the habitat no longer exists.Ripped incessantly by activists and even some AAZPA Species Survival Plan coordinators for euthanizing surplus, Graham repeatedly pointed out that any time an SSP declares a particular animal to be redundant, based upon an ongoing review of stud books, it is condemning that animal to death or misery.
“A place does not exist in any legitimate accredited zoo in the U.S. for an animal who is listed as surplus by a Species Survival Plan,” he argued. “These are pariahs.” In a 1991 guest column for the San Diego Union, Graham outlined the many undesireable dispositions of surplus animals by zoos that don’t euthanize, and charged AAZPA with evading the issue. “This topic came to the forefront in 1976,” he recalled, “when William Conway, director of the Bronz Zoo, indicated at an AAZPA national conference that there can be no biologically sound breeding programs without surplus
animals, and therefore euthanasia must be addressed. The membership voted to table the issue, and although various committees were formed and later disbanded over the years, very little progress has been made.”
The amount of surplus created by the adoption of Species Survival Plans seems to be coming down, as coordinated breeding protocols gradually reduce inbreeding and redundancy. Advances in reproductive technology and understanding of wildlife genetics have also helped: fewer animals need be bred now than 15 years ago to insure the survival of particular bloodlines. Intentional overbreeding today mostly involves hooved stock, and is done to give predators their native diets, which keeps them healthier than a diet of slaughterhouse offal does.But the zoo surplus problem is still far from solved. Noted for successful captive breeding, the San Diego Zoo alone moves 1,200 surplus animals per year–and has been embarrassed six times in five years when surplus animals turned up in inappropriate circumstances.
In April 1989, a fisher, a sloth bear, and two palm civets died aboard an overheated truck en route to an unaccredited zoo in Massachusetts; also in 1989, the zoo sold 15 whitetailed deer, three sheep, and a kangaroo to canned hunts in New York and Pennsylvania. In 1990 two Sika deer were sold to a Texas canned hunt–and although the zoo told AAZPA they had been retrieved, the San Diego Union found they were still there five months later.
Quebec canned hunt proprietor Robert Naud bought a boar from the San Diego Zoo in 1991. Then, in 1992, Friends of Animals revealed a routine traffic between the San Diego Zoo and animal dealer Larry Johnson, whose major client is Red McCombs, of Johnson City, Texas. McCombs both runs a canned hunt and breeds exotic animals for sale at auctions that mainly serve other canned hunts.
The San Diego Zoo surplus problems have been well documented by former San Diego Zoo elephant handler Lisa Landres, who took extensive contacts and inside information with her to first the Humane Society of the U.S. and then FoA after she exposed the abuse of an elephant in 1988 and was subsequently pressured into resignation. But similar cases emerging during the early 1990s have involved many other AAZPA institutions. Peace activists in Syracuse in mid-1991 discovered a six-year-old gibbon from the local zoo had been loaned to the State University of New York at Stony Brook for non-invasive research–and housing in a facility that while meeting laboratory standards, was far short of zoo standards. In November 1991, Lota, a 42-year-old elephant belonging to the Milwaukee Zoo, was found at an Illinois elephant ride concession. (She has since been moved to a sanctuary.) In April 1992 the Philadelphia Zoo was
forced by public outrage to remove a giraffe from a Texas canned hunt, where he was on loan for breeding. The National Zoo of Washington D.C. and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo of Colorado also had loaned animals to the canned hunt, also to be bred. Four of the six Cheyenne Mountain Zoo animals soon died–one in transit, one from drowning, and two from a lightning strike.
There were no such high-profile cases in 1993, nor have any become public thus far into 1994. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the traffic has stopped. And even if AAZPA has finally slammed the door, there is still the problem of proliferating exotics bred from former zoo animals, who were usually sold because they weren’t suitable for breeding. Already excessively inbred, the offspring of the former zoo stock is now so much more inbred that some biologists
grimly describe the private exotic breeding business as a sort of uncontrolled experiment in how much inbreeding a species can suffer.
Ironically, the current drive to stop the sale of exotics to dubious destinations is accelerating the private breeding, because the past availability of exotic wildlife from zoos helped create the canned hunt, roadside zoo, and exotic pet markets in the first place. The markets are largely speculative; most customers are mainly interested in becoming breeders, building breeder pyramids that enrich those who get in and out first. But a lack of end markets rarely breaks a pyramid before all the suckers are bankrupt, and meanwhile a diminishing supply of zoo animals is driving auction
Short of trying to buy up all the animals for euthanasia, which would further drive up prices and encourage more reckless breeding, or obtaining laws mandating sterilization of exotics in private hands (which wouldn’t have a hope of passage in Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas, the states most hospitable to private exotic breeding), there isn’t much that zoos or anyone else can do about it now beyond public education. Only when people stop buying exotic pets, patronizing canned hunts, pretending to be restoring endangered species, and speculating in “alternative livestock” will
the reckless breeding cease. Anxious to avoid unpopular euthanasias, partly because of pressure from animal rights activists, the zoo community opened a Pandora’s box.
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1993:
by Gary L. Francione and Anna E. Charlton
Animal Rights Law Center
On June 11, 1993, the Supreme Court issued its decision concerning animal sacrifice in Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah. The next day, most major newspapers carried headlines proclaiming that the Court had held that animal sacrifice is protected by the First Amendment freedom of religion clause. Typical of those proclamations was the one splashed across the entire front cover of New York Newsday: “Top Court OKs Animal Sacrifice.” Reading the comments of major humane organizations in reaction to the decision, including those such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which have the police power to stop the infliction of cruelty on animals, we have been distressed to realize that the decision has been read far too broadly, and that
there is the mistaken impression that humane officers are now powerless to stop the brutalities of animal sacrifice. The Court’s opinion in Lukumi was somewhat convoluted and was confused by current disagreement among Justices concerning how the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion should be interpreted. In light of these misunderstandings, we have offered the resources of the Animal Rights Law Center to assist municipalities and concerned individuals to assess their options for working to protect animals from sacrifice.