Letter to the editor: Response to “In Close Quarters”

By Rob Atkinson, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

I would like to respond to a statement by a Woodland Park Zoo official in the March 29 article, “In Close Quarters: Local activists continue to demand more space for the Woodland Park Zoo elephants.” The official stated the Sanctuary is for “…elephants who are struggling,” and that the Sanctuary does not “have the same type of care, expertise or mission” as the Woodland Park Zoo.



I am not in a position to speak about the policies and practices of the Woodland Park Zoo, but I can address the Sanctuary’s purpose and what we offer our elephant residents, most of whom are retired from zoos and circuses. At the Sanctuary, the nation’s largest natural habitat refuge developed specifically for elephants, we have more than 2,700 acres of natural woodland, creeks and lakes for them to explore and in which they can socialize and forage for natural foods. 



Our elephants, ranging in age from 29 to 63 years old, have free choice to move across their vast habitats as they like. The training we use for veterinary checkups and ongoing care is based entirely on positive reinforcement; we do not use chains, hooks, electric prods or physical punishment of any kind.



In addition to our multiple full-time, experienced caregivers, we engage a team of veterinarians to deliver our healthcare program, including Dr. Susan Mikota, an internationally recognized expert in elephant health and co-founder of Elephant Care International, a nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to elephant healthcare.



Elephants are complex and sensitive animals that deserve the best of care. For the past 16 years the Sanctuary has been providing such care in a safe and peaceful environment. It is a place of healing and refuge for these magnificent animals, giving them the chance to engage with the opportunities presented to them by the natural world that is their birthright. 



For more information on our organization, our elephants and how we care for them we encourage your readers to visit www.elephants.com, the official website of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

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