The Elephant Debate

June  17, 2013

     If we really care about the two elephants at the Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley, we should find a new home for them. That was the message today to the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission from elephant expert and consultant Alan Roocroft. Following up on his written report submitted last month, Roocroft says to be happy, elephants need to be in large family groups. And for Babe and Sophie, the two at Niabi, he recommends they move to a warmer climate.

     "To a place where they can recuperate and relax, where they can be cared for in terms of Sophie's arthritis. Their sleeping potential is poor here. Sophie does not lay down - she only lies down in the summer so you've got 5 months when she's leaning against a wall."

     He says what's considered adequate conditions for animals in zoos has changed a lot during the past 40 years.

     "The idea is we have to evolve now - this is certainly not good enough in 2013 and certainly wasn't good enough back when it was actually condoned but we didn't know that."

     Roocroft says he understands local residents want to see Babe and Sophie when they visit the Niabi Zoo, but his priority is their welfare.  Last year, the zoo lost its national accreditation, in part due to the size and condition of the elephant enclosure.