A California-based animal protection organization has listed a private Ontario zoo in Rockton as the worst for elephants in North America.
In Defense of Animals (IDA) claims African Lion Safari’s training techniques and “endless trafficking” makes it the number one worst zoo for the large land animals.
“African Lion Safari is a cruel, dangerous, and profit-driven business supported by zoos,” said Will Anderson, IDA Elephant campaign coordinator in a release on Tuesday.
“This zoo, and others doing business with it, operate like an elephant-trafficking cartel.”
African Lion Safari, which is currently closed for the season, claims to maintain one of the most successful conservation programmes for Asian elephants in North America.
The park is home 16 elephants and has the the largest Asian elephant herd in a North American zoo, according to the facility’s website.
Twenty-one calves have been born at the zoo, which says it has the most second-generation births of any agency in the continent.
IDA is calling the zoo an “international hub” for the selling of adult elephants to other zoos, and says the facility forces elephants to perform “demeaning tricks” and “carry people” around on their backs.
The release also characterized the potential sale of two elephants in 2020 — 15-year-old Emily and eight-year-old Nellie — to the Fort Worth Zoo for two million dollars as “transfer abuse.”
The Fort Worth Zoo’s assistant director of public relations told Global News the permit application to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the purchase is no longer happening.
“Fort Worth Zoo management reached an internal decision last year to withdraw the permit,” said spokesperson Avery Elander.
In 2019, Hamilton police and Ontario’s ministry of labour investigated the zoo after a trainer was allegedly attacked by an elephant.
Days after the incident, animal lovers commented on a social media post from the zoo when it revealed the incident on Facebook.
“Maybe that’s why elephants shouldn’t be in captivity and spend their days entertaining humans,” said one comment.
“I love coming to the safari… however, the elephant rides do make me sad. The elephant is made to walk on such a tiny circle,” said another.
Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, told Global News she was “disturbed” to see the news report that claimed the incident occurred in the context of an elephant ride.
“I, frankly, had no idea that African Lion Safari was giving out elephant rides,” Labchuk said. “It seems like visitors to the park can climb on top of an elephant, likely for a fee, and go on an elephant ride. Frankly, it’s a miracle that the public or a child wasn’t hurt in an incident like this until now.”
A spokesperson for the ministry of labour told Global News the investigation into the attack has been completed and that two requirements were issued to the park which have been complied with. No orders were issued.
African Lion Safari is a drive-through wildlife park, west of Hamilton, which opened in 1969.
It encompasses 750 acres with bush, grasslands or forest, and boasts over 1,000 exotic birds and animals that roam freely throughout seven game reserves.
Global News has not verified the claims made by In Defense of Animals (IDA).
African Lion Safari has not responded to Global News’ requests for comment.
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