Animal News

Dallas Zoo campaigns against protesters fighting elephant imports

Dallas Zoo campaigns against protesters fighting elephant imports

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Photo by Julie Soefer

The Dallas Zoo is at the center of a plan to try and import six elephants from Africa, one that has sparked a protest campaign from around the world. The zoo is one of three petitioning to remove 18 young elephants from a preserve in Swaziland, along with Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas, and Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha.

The zoos are not allowed to take the elephants without meeting certain requirements, because the African elephant is classified as "threatened" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Those requirements include a chance for the public to comment (which you can do here).

The deadline for comment is November 23, but elephant advocates are lobbying for a longer period of time to evaluate, and a Facebook page called The Big Rumble offers guidance for those who are opposed.

The zoo has countered with its own campaign, one with a 90-second video showing a drought-stricken area in Swaziland and a claim that, if not deported, the elephants could die.

"I think the zoos are being disingenuous, since they have not attempted to relocate the elephants within Africa," says Alyne Fortgang, co-founder of an elephant advocacy group in Seattle. "Elephants die young and suffer every single day in zoo confinement."

Out of the 18 elephants being targeted, 15 are young females, ideal for the breeding programs that zoos need.

Word of the importation was first revealed with a release in September. But according to Dennis Pate, director of the Henry Doorly Zoo, the zoos have been planning this since 2011. 

Objectors have tried to post comments questioning the importation on the Dallas Zoo's Facebook page, but opposing comments have been deleted. A spokesperson for the zoo refused to comment.

The importation is a surprising twist against current animal welfare trends, with organizations like Sea World and Ringling Circus all stepping away from captivity programs.

To submit a comment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, click here; there's a "comment" button at the top right of the page. You can also contact your senators and U.S. representative on the topic here. For now, the deadline is November 23.