ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) — A leading animal rights group is calling out the Albuquerque Biopark, saying the zoo should send its elephants to a sanctuary. Video captured by an undercover investigator with In Defense of Animals USA, shows elephants pacing and standing still for long periods of time.
“Documents were viewed showing signs of stress,” said Brittany Micahelson, captive animal campaign manager for In Defense of Animals USA.
Michaelson says the stress is caused by a number of issues, including their habitat. Michaelson says that’s far too small for the world’s largest land mammal, which travels more than 100 miles a day in the wild.
The group says the exhibit is the equivalent of a small family living their entire lives in a bathroom. “They have absolutely no business being in zoos,” Michaelson said.
Not only is their exhibit too small, Michaelson says the habitat is also too close to a busy road, Tingley Drive. Traffic noise is another cause of stress. Michaelson mentions the recent deaths of babies Jazmine and Thorn.
“EEHV, which is the strain of herpes, is usually found in elephants that suffer from the stress of zoo environments,” Michaelson said.
In 2014, the city released draft plans to expand the habitat by five acres, by fifty percent. Plans also called for the addition of a large elephant enrichment pond. KRQE News 13 asked if the exhibit had been expanded. “I’m going to have to find that information, I don’t have that answer,” said Bob Lee, associate director of ABQ Biopark.
Last year, however, the city celebrated a brand new elephant lookout and event platform, giving visitors a birds-eye view of the elephant herd. This is part of their massive expansion on the Asian exhibit, which includes orangutans, tigers, and snow leopards. Construction is expected to total $28 million.
Michaelson says that even though Biopark is expanding the exhibit, a zoo is not the place for such an intelligent and complex animal to live. The group asks Biopark to release its elephants in a sanctuary, giving them more space.
“A sanctuary is a safe house, and that’s what Albuquerque Biopark is all about,” Lee said.
The second phase of the exhibition on Asia will be completed this fall. The list of ten worst habitats for elephants included the Bronx Zoo and the Los Angeles Zoo.