Honolulu ranked among top 10 worst zoos for elephants - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Honolulu ranked among top 10 worst zoos for elephants

Sid Quintal Sid Quintal

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The two largest land animals in all of Hawaii are at the center of a lifestyle dispute.

An animal welfare group says the elephants Mari and Vaigai should be removed from the Honolulu Zoo and sent to a wildlife sanctuary.

Cramped quarters, foot disease, and circus-style training are some of the allegations released on Tuesday that put the Honolulu Zoo on a list of top ten worst zoos for elephants.

On Tuesday night, the city fired back.

In a video a watchdog for zoos posted, Mari and Vaigai look like they're dancing, and entertaining visitors with tricks.

But an animal welfare group claims the zoo's two female elephants are suffering.

In Defense of Animals (IDA) says rocking and swaying is abnormal, neurotic behavior triggered by severe confinement.

"It is disappointing that a group like IDA would put something out that, to me, is not factual without at least talking to us," said Honolulu Zoo spokesperson, Sid Quintal.

Quintal says their vet and keeper records are clean, and calls IDA's report twisted.

The group ranks the elephant exhibit as one of the top ten worst zoos for elephants.

IDA says Mari and Vaigai are cramped in their 6,000 square-foot home.

The group says not enough room to move means painful foot problems.

"They have a very good base to work out on, they walk on it, we do not put them on a hard course, we have man sand, it's a softer environment and if they do develop any type of foot problems we address them immediately," said Quintal.

The zoo is already planning two new elephant habitats.

The $6 million project, to be unveiled next month, will give Mari and Vaigai and a future male elephant 38,000 square feet of room to roam.

But IDA says that's not even an acre of space and that Honolulu should send Mari and Vaigai to an animal sanctuary.

"We feel that we have a sanctuary and we feel we're doing all that we can to provide a better environment for our elephants," said Quintal.

The city says the new elephant habitats should be done by Fall or the later part of 2011.

This is the first time the Honolulu Zoo has landed in IDA's list of worst zoos for elephants.

Photo source: Noel Hawkins via Connect Now

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