Elephant Exhibit at Oregon Zoo to Set New Standards for Pachyderm Care


While a number of zoos across the country are closing their elephant exhibits by 2016, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Portland’s Oregon Zoo is building a replacement four times larger than the existing 1959 pachyderm barn. This ambitious project sets new standards in elephant care and is designed to be one of the most natural, moving and spectacular zoo exhibits in the world.

The new exhibit, called Elephant Lands, will include both interior and exterior areas. The interior holding area’s solid 35-foot-tall walls have already been erected, surpassing the height of any other building in the Oregon Zoo’s 125-year history. The Forest Hall, another indoor portion of the exhibit, will be even taller at 43 feet, and will feature an elephant viewing area and information on the 5,000-year-old history of the relationship between humans and elephants. Together, the holding area and Forest Hall rest on 32,000 square feet, and will be filled with at least four feet of sand to cushion and protect the health of the pachyderms’ feet.

The exterior portion of the exhibit will take up the remaining 6.25 acre spread that has been dedicated to the elephant exhibit. It will contain feeding stations, mud wallows and water features, including a 130,000-gallon pool. The goal is for elephants to be active 14-16 hours a day, as they would be in their natural habitat. Elephants will be able to choose whether they want to be inside or outside at any given time, moving freely between the two options through an elephant-sized “air cushion,” part of the technologically advanced heating and ventilation system that will maintain a consistent, comfortable indoor temperature.

While the Oregon Zoo is expanding its elephant exhibit into an exciting, new habitat based on more than 50 years of scientific research on pachyderm care, other zoos across the U.S. are closing their own standard elephant exhibits. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), a non-profit organization that accredits zoos, recently published new requirements for elephant exhibits, based on scientific research showing that elephants, as emotional, intelligent and highly social animals, belong in a pack. The new guidelines mandate that facilities with only one or two elephants must either acquire additional elephants or get rid of them altogether by September 2016. When the elephants are shipped to their new homes, tears will be shed, both human and elephantine.

According to the AZA, rigorous standards for elephant care, management and conservation must be met or exceeded  for zoos to keep their accreditations. These standards specify proper care and maintenance to ensure that the social, behavioral, psychological, and physical needs of elephants are met. Elephant exhibits are also expected to educate the public about the issues that are threatening elephant survival, and how to protect them. Finally, AZA-accredited zoos must have extensively researched and planned elephant breeding programs that support a variety of international conservation and research programs that help elephants in Africa and Asia.

As an AZA-accredited facility, the Oregon Zoo, with the upcoming elephant exhibit planned to be in place by Autumn of 2015, will meet or exceed the new accreditation requirements and standards for pachyderm care almost a year before they go into effect. The Oregon Zoo is currently accepting donations for their $3 million “Campaign for Elephants.”

By Sarah Hutchins

See Also:

Guardian Liberty Voice 

Wall Street Journal
Oregon Zoo
Association of Zoos & Aquariums

4 Responses to "Elephant Exhibit at Oregon Zoo to Set New Standards for Pachyderm Care"

  1. Courtney Scott   July 18, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Please check the facts about the Oregon Zoo’s elephant program here:http://freeoregonzooelephants.org/ The new Elephant Lands exhibit is touted as being 6 acres but in reality, when you factor in the visitor and staff and indoor viewing cage, the elephants are left with around 3 acres of space to actually walk on. Right now, 3 of the bull elephants have TB and are kept indoors all day. The Elephant Lands exhibit will not provide any significant improvement to these long suffering elephants. And the zoo is asking for more money in donations–the zoo has already used $58 million of taxpayer funds from a bond measure, that was supposed to be used to develop an offsite multi acre preserve, a retirement home for the elephants. That’s why and I and many others voters for the bond measure in 2008. However, here we are in 2014 and the only plan is for this inadequate and overly hyped onsite exhibit, which is like a front yard for the zoo’s 8 elephants. And the zoo plans to breed even more elephants who will endure the same zoo-related diseases and conditions that the current herd does. Please do not report the zoo’s well-paid for PR. Because that is all it is.

  2. Judy Malone   July 18, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Among the absurdities here is the suggestion Oregon Zoo elephants will soon be as active as in the wild, due to a bigger pool, some mud and a few more acres. I suggest the writer take a look at a day in the life of a wild elephant. Two non-breeding sanctuaries, in California and in Tennessee, have become the ideal models for the care of existing captive elephants. People can now can easily observe the differences via the Internet. Several zoos are indeed phasing out elephant “exhibits”, and more will follow. In choosing to slightly expand its facility, the Oregon Zoo management is burying its collective head in the sand trucked in for substrate. Modern opinion is fortunately trending against the modern zoo, and holding wildlife in captivity. By the way the Oregon Zoo has a poor record when it comes to elephant welfare. Hard to believe how anyone could imagine expanding it a good thing.

  3. erikamansouriane   July 18, 2014 at 6:10 am

    I’ve almost never read a more obvious piece of propaganda. I don’t know what Ms. Hutchins’ affiliation with zoos is to disseminate such a wholesale misrepresentation of the reality for zoo elephants, but it has to be significant. Either that or she is an anti-animal extremist who willfully ignores the well-documented, copious, fact-based research about zoos and their “care” of wildlife. The real blame, however, belongs with the Guardian for allowing such irresponsible and false “information” on their website. Clearly they’ve had to eliminate fact-checkers

  4. Keith Lindsay   July 18, 2014 at 4:00 am

    This article appears to have been written with very little critical thinking or background research. Has 50 years of “scientific research on pachyderm care” really revealed that “elephants, as emotional, intelligent and highly social animals, belong in a pack”? And that this “pack” should be composed of 3 or more unrelated individuals who may or may not get along with each other? Even a brief bit of internet searching would have led to genuine field research on elephant biology describing the natural social groups of elephants as families of related adult females along with their juvenile offspring of both sexes and varying ages, occasionally including unrelated animals whose bonds have formed through voluntary attachment. These groupings cannot be replicated in captivity, and since elephants suffer without them, they are not suitable animals for confinement in the inadequate habitats and social conditions of even the most “modern” zoos.


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