Decisions, Decisions. Kansas has gotta make em’ (as well as the rest of the country)

The Sedgwick County and Topeka zoos are facing dilemmas in their elephant programs. In order to meet new AZA standards (created for the benefit of both elephant species)  zoos must hold at least three female elephants of the SAME species.

Cinda and Stephanie at the Sedgwick county zoo have been companions since 1972. The zoo has three choices

  1. Construct a third stall at a price tag of $1 million, plus addition fees to transport an additional animal.
  2. Fund raise the money necessary to build their planned three-acre breeding enclosure, for $16 million.
  3. Send the two females away to a zoo also seeking additional elephants to meet requirements,  and bring elephants back to the collection in the near future when the economy becomes more stable, thus fund raising becomes easier.

The Topeka zoo enclosure is capable of holding four elephants, but their program is at a sort of standstill. Since they have one elephant of each species. New standards require the herds at facilities be exclusively African, or exclusively Asian. In order to bring in elephants to meet new standards, they must choose between African or Asian. Which also unfortunately means seperating the bond between  Sunda, 50 (Asian) and Tembo, 40 (African).  The zoo has come under fire from animal rights activists (also known as zoological institution terrorists), where of course they want the elephants sent to a “sanctuary” and the exhibit closed. This obviously isn’t going to happen as Topeka is determined to have a future with elephants, regardless of species.




Other zoos with two elephants, needing to either acquire another or close their enclosure:

  • Seneca Park Zoo (New York) *renovated barn and exhibit for third elephant
  • Buffalo Zoo (New York)
  • Lee Richardson Zoo (Kansas)
  • Zoo Atlanta (Georgia)
  • Audubon Zoo (Louisiana) *in process of renovating barn and enclosure
  • Baton Rouge Zoo (Louisiana)
  • Buttonwood Park Zoo (Massachusetts)
  • Cameron Park Zoo (Texas) *excellent enclosure, room for a third elephant
  • Fresno Chaffee Zoo (California) *Transferring Asians and building new exhibit for African herd by 2014
  • El Paso Zoo (Texas)
  • San Antonio Zoo (Texas)
  • Little Rock Zoo (Arkansas)
  • Greenville Zoo (South Carolina)
  • Honolulu Zoo (Hawaii) *opened new enclosure last year, capacity for more elephants
  • Miami Metro Zoo (Florida) *Only has two cows, of both African and Asian (in separate enclosures)
  • Los Angeles Zoo (California) *Only two cows in a brand new exhibit, with room for up to ten
  • Louisville Zoo (Kentucky) *One African, one Asian, no indication of closing or renovation
  • Knoxville Zoo (Tennessee) *Two African cows, with one bull
  • Milwaukee Zoo (Wisconsin)
  • Toledo Zoo (Ohio) *New enclosure opening this year, with room for more cows
  • Niabi Zoo (Illinois) *Planning new enclosure to meet standards
  • Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (Washington) *Closing enclosure in the near future
  • Santa Barbera Zoo (California) *Closing enclosure in the near future
  • Smithsonian National Zoo (D.C.) *Looking for more females (mother/daughter pair for breeding) to fill new enclosure.
  • Tulsa Zoo (Oklahoma)
  • Virginia Zoo (Virginia) *third female died last year

Total: 28 zoos


About Jackson B.

I'm just a guy with a passion for elephants. On the right track for becoming an elephant keeper in the future. The blog has: news, facts, pictures, and history on the African elephant population in the U.S.

3 responses to “Decisions, Decisions. Kansas has gotta make em’ (as well as the rest of the country)

  1. David Brown

    Hi. Great blog. LA Zoo has 3 Asian elephants at the moment (2 elderly females and Billy the young bull), as does Smithsonian National (2 females, young bull)….were you not counting the bulls for some reason in your list above? Sorry if I missed something.

    • Bull elephants aren’t a part of the matriarchal groups in which elephant herd structure is based on. So no bulls don’t count. It’s a minimum of three females as of 2016 🙂

  2. Jesse

    Not sure where you got your information, buy the AZA elephant standards say otherwise:

    “2.2.1 Group Composition Suggested age and sex structure of social group
    Standard: Each zoo holding elephants must hold a minimum of three females (or the space to hold
    three females), two males or three elephants of mixed gender.”

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