SALINAS, Calif. (KION) The Monterey Zoo in Salinas ranked #5 on the top ten list of worst zoos for elephants in North America by In Defense of Animals (IDA)
Concerns raised the IDA state elephants are dying at younger ages at the Monterey Zoo by zoo standards along with concerns of potential spread of zoonotic diseases such as tuberculosis through human to animal interaction.
On Tuesday, Charlie Sammut, Director of the Monterey Zoo expressed disappointment for the list.
“These elephants are all retired from circuses or carnivals and these people are suggesting that because we’re sharing them with people, because we allow people to meet them and interact with them, it’s a bad thing?" says Sammut.
Will Anderson, an Elephant Campaign Coordinator for the IDA says the ranking was based on data collected by sources observing practices at the Monterey Zoo as well as records kept for the animals.
“There are a lot of red flags that we saw when we started looking at the Monterey Zoo given the nature of how it was founded, the person finding it and I’m sure he felt sincerely about what he was doing but they are not the standards of a true accredited zoo, it’s not a sanctuary by any chance," says Anderson.
Anderson says one of the biggest concerns is elephants dying at much younger rates than others per zoo standards.
“They suggested that our average age was 22 years…completely false. Not one of our elephants that passed away was anywhere near 22, it was 38, 37, unfortunately that is the average age of losing an elephant in captivity," says Sammut.
Sammut also addressed the IDA's concerns of disease transmission between humans and the elephants.
“They won’t find an elephant that died as old as the one we lost recently, Paula, at fifty something years old, that is in the top ninety percent of the older elephants in captivity and I walk around the county and I see that we took precautions far beyond the scope of what was being asked of us," says Sammut.
Sammut says the Monterey Zoo has been able to care for up to five elephants with the help of animal care experts and veterinarians on hand.
Currently, there is one elephant at the Monterey Zoo but Sammut says they are not sure if it will remain on site.
The IDA argues the elephants would be better off at a sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries as opposed to remaining at the zoo.
“I believe it was PETA who got a tip that there was not only elephants disappearing, but there was an attack on a trainer by an elephant while the trainer allegedly was reprimanding or putting an elephant in control. We aren’t looking for defamation, we’re looking for facts," says Anderson.
Local animal care experts and humane officers in Monterey County say they have not received any complaints for the Monterey Zoo.