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Fates At Zoos and Circuses
Feb 14, 2006
You can watch the WESH I-team circus report, or read the text, on line at:
It includes footage of Ringling Brothers elephants being whacked with
bullhooks by trainers, as they simply stood chained to a poll doing nothing.
The piece clearly tried to be balanced, interviewing both an animal rights
activist and a Ringling representative who gave a tour of the Ringling
elephant breeding ground and talked about how beautifully the elephants are
treated. However the reporter included the story of
Ricardo, an 8-month-old elephant who fell off a pedestal, broke his hind
legs and had to be euthanized. Though the Ringling representative referred
to a brittle bone disease and called his death "a heartbreaking fact of
nature," we can hope that most viewers would not agree that a baby elephant
falling off a pedestal is as an act of nature.
Bryan Wilson, of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, says, "He should
have still been with his mother. He should have still been nursing."
The piece mentions other Ringling deaths being investigated.
As the circus is still largely seen as good clean family fun and most media
are doing fluff pieces on it, WESH deserves much thanks and encouragement.
Please sent a quick note. The station takes comments at:
KSDK's story, by reporter Mike Owen, on the fate of chimpanzees retired from
the St Louis Zoo, can be viewed or read on line at:
The story follows Edythe, a 41 year old chimpanzee born at the Saint Louis
Zoo who is now at a road-side zoo in Amarillo. The St Louis Zoo used to do
circus-like chimpanzee shows but when the trainer died, the shows stopped.
"Zoo records, which administrators admit are in disarray, show that some of
the chimps that thrilled audiences in St. Louis went to other zoos and some
to private owners. It surprised the I-team to learn a number of them were
sold for medical research."
Another St Louis chimpanzee was one of three chimps gunned down last year
when they broke out of their pen at Zoo Nebraska. They hurt nobody.
The story does an excellent job of highlighting the plight of zoo cast-offs.
It shows that once chimps, or any animals, are sold from leading zoos, they
may be bounced around from place to place. The roadside zoo in Amarillo is
Edythe's fifth home.
Those who wish to read more about this issue might like to take a look at a
US News & World Report story, from 2002, headed, "Cruel and Usual: How some
of America's best zoos get rid of their old, inform, and unwanted animals."
I have it on my website at:
My one concern about the KSDK piece is that in its attempts to be balanced,
it includes information that Steve Ross of Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo had
told the reporter that thanks to a new program "no chimpanzee today could
ever be sold to a medical testing facility." Primate protection experts in
our movement tell me that simply is not true. The KSDK story ends with the
"Will we ever know exactly what happened to chimps like Mr. Moke who
performed at the zoo? The zoo admits its records are far from complete. The
SSP's records allow us to trace a few chimps, but it seems the paper trail
for many of the chimps just isn't there."