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Seneca Park Zoo named a 'worst zoo for elephants' by animal advocacy group 

click to enlarge An elephant at Seneca Park Zoo.

FILE PHOTO

An elephant at Seneca Park Zoo.

The Seneca Park Zoo has been named one the “10 Worst Zoos for Elephants” by the animal rights group, In Defense of Animals.

The organization ranked the zoo fourth on its list, which was released Tuesday, citing the zoo’s “cold, restricted conditions and the osteoarthritis that is killing elephants there.” Seneca Park Zoo has made the annual list three times in the last four years, including in 2018 and 2019.

Another upstate zoo, Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse received a “dishonorable mention” for refusing to stop breeding elephants.

“It’s obvious that New York state’s climate is entirely unsuitable for elephants, but the state has two of the Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America because they ignore the suffering this causes,” said Will Anderson, the elephant campaign coordinator for In Defense of Animals.

“Cold weather and cramped conditions at Seneca Park Zoo force elephants to suffer painful feet and joints as they march towards an early grave,” Anderson added. “It’s time for all zoos in New York to urgently send their suffering elephants to accredited warm-weather sanctuaries, starting with Seneca Park and Rosamond Gifford.”

Responding to inquiries about the report, Dr. Louis Vincenti, the director of animal health and conservation at Seneca Park Zoo, called the zoo's elephant program "exemplary" and said the zoo has participated in an initiative of accredited zoos that helps identify best practices for elephant care.

"We prioritize the physical, mental, and behavioral well-being of the elephants in everything we do," he said.

The zoo keeps three elephants —Genny C, 43; Lilac, 42; and Moki, 38.

In Defense of Animals cited the death in 2019 of a female African elephant named Chana, who was euthanized at the age of 37 after zoo officials determined that a chronic foot condition rendered her lame.

The organization claimed that two of the three elephants currently residing at the zoo — Genny C and Lilac — are being treated for osteoarthritis.

“Chana being euthanized because of her suffering from severe foot problems, and the osteoarthritis in Genny C and Lilac, both fit the pattern of how captivity kills elephants in zoos,” read a statement from the organization.
click to enlarge Elephants at Seneca Park Zoo. - PHOTO BY WAYNE SMITH
  • PHOTO BY WAYNE SMITH
  • Elephants at Seneca Park Zoo.
Vincenti said the zoo routinely conducts behavioral and welfare assessments to ensure the elephant program evolves with the changing needs of elephants.

Seneca Park Zoo received its most recent accreditation report in 2018, the second year in which the AZA applied new and more stringent animal welfare standards to its accreditation process.

The report showed the zoo’s animal care exceeded standards in most areas. Inspectors, in fact, singled out the zoo’s elephant program as “impressive and clearly focused on safety, excellence in animal training, and welfare.”

Inspectors noted that “there is evidence of a solid program for foot and skin care” for elephants, but they also recommended additional work. Specifically, they recommended that the zoo implement a body condition scoring program for elephants and re-evaluating the process for bathing elephants.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.
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