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Zoo elephants deserve their dignity and freedom


Edmonton – International charity  In Defence of Animals has released its annual list of the 10 worst zoos for elephants in North America, exposing zoos that are considered the best by industry standards.

Vegan comedian Ricky Gervais says that elephants deserve to live their lives with dignity.

The list draws attention to neuroscientific research, delivering a damning conclusion: elephants living in unnatural captive environments suffer from captivity-caused brain damage.

Ricky Gervais, vegan animal rights advocate and celebrity comedian, is calling for all elephants to be released to accredited sanctuaries where they can live a more natural life.

Elephants are sensitive, emotional, and highly intelligent beings — seeing them suffer mentally and physically behind bars is heartbreaking Gervais says.

The #1 worst zoo of 2021 is the Edmonton Valley Zoo in Alberta. The facility has held 46-year-old Asian elephant Lucy in solitary confinement for the past 15 years.

Dr Bob Jacobs professor of neuroscience and lead author of Putative neural consequences of captivity for elephants and cetaceans, summarised the findings.

“Decades of neuroscience research shows that an impoverished brain is a damaged brain. Whether it is the 10 Worst Zoos or the ten best, all zoos are detrimental to elephants’ brains and cause physical and mental suffering,” he says.

According to Dr Jacobs, captivity leads to neural cruelty, which negatively impacts the hippocampus, which handles memory, and the centre of the brain that processes emotions. This essentially leads to repetitive stereotypic behaviours that many animals adopt in captivity – crippling their social, mental, and neural needs.

The annual list found evidence of neural cruelty in every zoo on this year’s list and also in every other zoo with elephants to various degrees.

Gervais is encouraging the public to join him together, with In Defence of Animals, to call for the end of elephant captivity.

The list serves to raise awareness about the plight of elephants in zoos where lack of space, unsuitably cold climates, and unnatural conditions condemn Earth’s largest land mammals to lifetimes of deprivation, disease, and early death.

In addition to the 10 Worst Zoos, one zoo earns a dishonourable mention while repeat offenders may be added to the hall of shame.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has passed a long-awaited animal welfare bill just days after US pop star Cher called out a state-run elephant orphanage. It aims to protect animals from cruelty and torture.