1.5 acres of hard surface. 8 inmates. 3 cells. New reality series?

No, it's life for nine Asian elephants at the St. Louis Zoo who are crammed into a half-acre or less of outdoor space and spend long stretches behind locked doors in concrete stalls at night and 24/7 during cold Midwestern winter days.

Elephants continue to suffer at this zoo, which has made repeated appearances on IDA's Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list. Asian elephant Clara was euthanized at age 54, after suffering for years from crippling arthritis and chronic foot disease, the result of decades spent in the zoo's tiny exhibit. Clara's companion, Pearl, continues to languish at the zoo, becoming increasingly debilitated. In 2007, Jade was born, but rejected by her mother, Rani. Another elephant, Sri, has survived despite her failure to expel a fetus that died in utero in November 2005. No significant change is on the horizon for St. Louis' nine elephants

exhibit c
Clara, bones showing, attempts to ease the pain in her legs and feet

Instead of addressing the cause of Clara’s problems, the zoo continued to hold her in the same environment that was causing and exacerbating the degenerative conditions. All the while the zoo was masking Clara’s pain with ever-increasing doses of pain killers, even to the point of causing bleeding ulcers and signs of kidney damage.

Clara is the eighth elephant to die in 15 months at Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facilities. Seven of those elephants suffered from severe foot and/or joint disease prior to death.

The elephants desperately need someone to fight in their corner, to cut the spin, and expose the truth about the poverty of space

"The first, and undoubtedly the single main reason zoo elephants have so many foot problems is the universal use of concrete floors in zoo indoor elephant enclosures. . . . The number one cause of illness and premature death of zoo elephants is zoo-genic foot disease caused by decades of life spent in the traditional zoo elephant enclosure- it is by far the number one source of suffering and premature death for elephants in every zoo."

-- Dr. Michael Schmidt, former Chief Veterinarian and Senior Research Veterinarian for the Portland Zoo for 25 years, author of Jumbo Ghosts: The Dangerous Life of Elephants in the Zoo, 2001.

sactuary now