An animal rights groups has branded a zoo in southern Ontario the worst in North America for its practices. The organization said African Lion Safari's elephants especially are being mistreated.
The U.S.-based group In Defense of Animals named the Hamilton zoo tops on the list of the 10 most harmful for elephants in 2020. It said the zoo breeds elephants for sale, and causes abuses through repeated transfer shipments of the animals and even uses bullhooks on them.
Will Anderson, a campaign coordinator with In Defense of Animals, said elephants depend on strong relationships with other elephants and when that’s broken, they become severely stressed.
“When a zoo moves an elephant, say to African Lion Safari for breeding, that elephant is in a new place, it’s traumatized, and the elephant is often shipped back to the zoo they came from after a few years," Anderson said, "and for some elephants -- I’ve seen the records of this happen -- three, four, five, six times throughout their lives.”
Anderson said the elephants are often made to perform circus tricks, and that these intelligents and socially complex animals are denied control over their lives.
On its website, African Lion Safari says it is participating in important research programs on the Asian elephant and that its breeding program is aimed at conservation.
"Today only the African and the Asian elephant species roam on earth and both are an endangered species," the website says. "It is estimated that less than 35,000 Asian elephants survive today in the wild. The greatest threat to the wild Asian elephant is the rapid destruction of the elephant habitat in southern Asia."
Anderson said this zoo is a dangerous, profit-driven business and an international hub selling adult elephants to other zoos. In Defense of Animals is urging other zoos to phase out their elephant exhibits and send their animals to sanctuaries where they can be cared for.
New legislation was proposed in Canada last year to ban new captivity of great apes and elephants in Canada unless it was in the animals’s best interests.
The Buffalo Zoo's elephant exhibit also made the animal group's list multip-le times. Buffalo's two Asian elephants were transfered to Audubon Zoo in New Orleans in 2018.