Saturday, December 17, 2011

Santa Ana Zoo ends 25-year-old elephant ride attraction

The Santa Ana Zoo announced Friday that it has ended its 25-year-old elephant ride attraction to comply with changes in animal care and safety guidelines designed to protect zookeepers and trainers from being harmed by the powerful and moody land giants.

The decision was based on policy changes adopted in September by the Assn. of Zoos and Aquariums, which accredits the Santa Ana Zoo.

Santa Ana Zoo was one of the last two zoos in the United States encouraging visitor-elephant interactions.

Under the new standards, zookeepers at zoos accredited by the association are not to share the same space with elephants without some form of protective barrier between them and the animals.

The San Diego Zoo and the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, which did away with elephant rides two decades ago, already have installed gates and metal barriers at new elephant exhibits to ensure minimal contact with handlers.

“Times change,” said Santa Ana Zoo Director Kent Yamaguchi, whose 20-acre facility is due for a routine five-year reaccreditation review. “But I still think elephant rides are an amazing way for people to learn about the animals through hands-on contact.”

“There are going to be a lot of people saddened by this news,” he added. “Hundreds of people a day -– most of them children -– rode the elephants that they had come to know by name: Rosy, Tai and Kitty.”

Courtesy of Mark Rosenthal

'You gotta wonder how we went from having "accidents" to being " harmed by the powerful and moody land giants" in such short order?'

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