Philadelphia Zoo Elephant Exhibit Closure

By: George Adelman
Adorable Elephant lifting his trunk and seemingly smiling in profile view against white background in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Getty Images / Vicki Jauron

People have always been fascinated by elephants. When the Philadelphia zoo was first opened in 1874, people saw the first elephant tied to a tree and kept gazing at it for quite a while. Elephants delight most people and are part of one of the biggest attractions at the zoo. They have also been featured on posters and gained widespread popularity, especially among the younger crowds.

The Philadelphia zoo is considered one of the best zoos around the world, but it has also been criticized by many. The zoo had state of the art equipment and facilities in the late 1980s. However, recently, most animal rights supporters have protested against the zoo’s small enclosures and inconsistent design compared to the natural habitat of the animals.


Furthermore, the death of an elephant in 2014 gained a lot of attention from animal rights activists, which caused the zoo to close its gates and place the elephants elsewhere. Studies have suggested that animals are smarter than we may think. They can understand emotions just as well as humans can. Thus, the elephants are capable of feeling anxious and depressed when they are removed from their natural habitat. The animal rights activists argue that even the best zoos hold the animals in confinement and captivity, which is unfair to these poor helpless creatures.

Research suggests that elephants need an environment where they can look for their own food and build social connections with other elephants. If such an environment is not provided to elephants, they don’t tend to function properly and may not be able to reproduce.

The Philadelphia zoo took the decision to close its elephant exhibit and transfer all of its elephants to a new facility. The elephants were scheduled to be transferred to different locations as there were sometimes fights between the older and the younger elephants. In one incident, one of the younger elephants had seriously injured the older elephants, which made the authorities realize that they should be separated.

The zoo had previously hoped that it would create a bigger enclosure for its elephants. However, due to a lack of funding and pressures from animal rights activists, it was decided that the elephants needed to be moved to new locations after all. The zoo retracted its decision to improve the enclosures in 2006, and it was apparent that the elephant exhibit would be closed for good.

The future of the Philadelphia zoo seems to look very bleak from its former glory as one of the best zoos in the world due to a constant funding problem. The animal enclosures cannot be expanded due to lack of funds, which also contributes to poor planning and infrastructure. The zoo needs to reconsider its plans for raising funds in order to thrive again and make a better place for the animals to live.