Group lists Hogle Zoo as one of the worst places for elephants

Zoo officials dismiss criticism from In Defense of Animals.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Christie is one of two African elephants at Hogle Zoo.

An animal advocacy group is attacking Hogle Zoo as one of the worst for elephants in North America.

In Defense of Animals rates the Salt Lake City zoo as the 10th worst “for continuing its abuse of elephants through years of social isolation and exposing children and elephants alike to pathways of potential airborne diseases.” Hogle was No. 8 on the list a year ago.

In response, Hogle President/CEO Doug Lund said the zoo “has a long and proud history with elephants. We take the safety and wellbeing of our elephants, staff and guests seriously.”

According to a statement from the California-based In Defense of Animals’ elephant campaign coordinator, Hogle is “is still keeping African elephants Christie and Zuri in social isolation,” and is “senselessly offering a feeding experience during the pandemic which endangers elephants and risks public health.” Will Anderson went on to say that “young children … can be grabbed by an elephant’s trunk unexpectedly” and suggest that Hogle’s elephants are in danger of contracting COVID-19 from human zoo visitors.

“COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease that, like tuberculosis, has already jumped the species barrier,” Anderson said. “People are the most likely source of COVID-19 infections in tigers, lions, a gorilla and other species at zoos.”

The group acknowledges that “it’s not known whether COVID-19 can spread between elephants and humans,” it asserted that “numerous captive animals have been infected with the virus by humans at several zoos, including tigers, lions, snow leopards and gorillas.”

Lund defended Hogle Zoo’s elephant feeding events on Fridays, Saturday and Sunday from 12:30-1:15, and the $15 per person fee.

“Elephants in the wild are facing extinction,” Lund said. “Through special guest experiences, we create Champions for Wildlife that foster deep connections to animals and provide direct support to elephants in the wild.”

According to In Defense of Animals, Hogle’s elephants, mother-and-daughter Christie and Zuri, are kept “alone in a small, cold-weather enclosure.” The group maintains such a living arrangement violates Association of Zoos & Aquariums standards that “recommend larger social groupings.”

Christie and Zuri have been Hogle’s only elephants since a third died in 2015.

“Now is the time for Hogle Zoo to begin looking at permanent accredited sanctuary retirement,” Anderson said, “so Christie and Zuri can finally have the company of other elephants, which is essential to their well-being.”

In Defense of Animals 10 worst zoos for elephants

1. African Lion Safari, Hamilton, Ontario

2. Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas

3. Pittsburgh Zoo, Pittsburgh, Penn.

4. Seneca Park Zoo, Rochester, N.Y.

5. Monterey Zoo, Salinas, Calif.

6. Myrtle Beach Safari, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

7. Natural Bridge Zoo, Natural Bridge, Va.

8. Memphis Zoo, Memphis, Tenn.

9. Cameron Park Zoo, Waco, Texas

10. Hogle Zoo, Salt Lake City

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