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Discussion in 'United States' started by snowleopard, 5 Dec 2007.

  1. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    There wasn't a thread for the Oregon Zoo, but it is located in the city of Portland, in the State of Oregon in the U.S.A. I live in Canada but have taken the 5 hour drive down and visited the zoo twice in the last two and a half years. I've gone for a weekend getaway with my wife, and taken in other sights in the city as well as the zoo.

    The zoo has about 1,200 animals, and it is divided into geographic regions. There aren't any truly superb exhibits that can be compared to other zoos, but in general the enclosures are done well and there aren't many poor ones. Overall it is a solid zoo that is attempting to join the big league.

    They have 7 Asian elephants, and have one of the best breeding records for elephants of any zoo in North America (27 calves born). However, the elephant enclosure is quite poor, and nothing like Melbourne's enrichment-packed paddocks.

    The one great thing about this particular zoo is that they are consistently improving, and year after year they are building new exhibits. In the two years that divided my visits they built new enclosures for ocelots, bobcats, american black bears, cougars, visayan warty pigs and babirusa pigs. That's six new animal species in only two years...

    In May '08 they are tripling the size of their orangutan exhibit, and the 3 orangs will share their space with a pair of white-cheeked gibbons. Then in May '09 there is a "Predators of the Serengeti" exhibit with a species of mongoose, african rock pythons, african wild hunting dogs, cheetah, caracals, and african lions. The mongoose will have long glass tunnels that stretch out of their exhibit and into the caracal exhibit, and so the zoo is hoping that the mongoose running in and out of the caracal cage (fully protected) will provide enrichment for the cats.
     
  2. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    we have discussed the success of oregon's elephant program here before but it seems to have really dropped off over the last decade has it not?

    from emory they haven't had a birth in ages. any updates on whats going down there?

    also, one of the elephants was imported from sabah, where the elephants are now regarded as a distinct subspecies, and the most endangered one at that!

    has the zoo discussed the implications of this?
     
  3. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Good response Patrick. You are right in the fact that the Oregon Zoo has been renowned for its elephant breeding program, but yet hasn't had a birth in at least a decade. They renovated their enclosure in the mid-nineties, and about 3 years ago brought in a massive bull named Tusko. Now one of the many females is pregnant, and she is due to give birth in either September or October.

    The elephant that was imported has caused the zoo to come under some heavy criticism, and the size of the exhibit for the 7 pachyderms has also been criticized by animal rights groups. Too much concrete and not enough substrate.

    On a side note, it is probably the only zoo outside of Asia that has an elephant museum. There is a series of news articles, ornamental pottery, some paintings, and a massive skeleton all set up inside a small building near the elephant exhibit.
     
  4. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    From memory, when last I looked on their website, it listed 3 male and 3 female elephants- I'm presuming No.7 is an additional female ?

    I believe the first calf born at Portland was 'Packy' and he is (or was then) still at the zoo. Does he, or has he ever fathered any calves? Why did they need to bring in yet another bull?
     
  5. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Tusko is apparently a famous breeder from a southern zoo in the United States, and I guess he's proved it with the upcoming birth that will occur next year. The website currently does list 7 elephants, but one of the females died last year. She was euthanized due to deteriorating foot problems. I think that they still have 7 left. The Oregon Zoo has now had 3 dead elephants within a decade, and it is mainly due to the tough concrete that they are forced to stand on for the rest of their lives. It destroys their feet and creates many psychological problems.

    Packy is a male, and he was born in 1962...and eventually sired 7 calves. I assume that he is too old to breed now....or too worn out!
     
    Last edited: 5 Dec 2007
  6. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    Its very surprising that a zoo with such a good reputation for breeding Asian elephants- and going back a few decades they were world famous for this- should still have very basic enclosures. I imagine its not that much changed from the old postcards I've seen of 'Packy' and his 'mom' in their outdoor enclosure which looked like a typical concrete and ditch affair..

    It surprising they haven't been able to at least woodchip or mulch some areas so the elephants have some softer substrate to walk on, though spacious sand or grass paddocks would be the ideal. Do they have any plans for the future?
     
  7. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    thats ridiculous! there is no damn need for concrete nowdays. melbournes old elephant exhibit was concrete, and the bull, bong-su developed a serious foot problem that apparently nearly killed him. fortunatley the zoo didn't wait for the construction of the new exhibit and ripped up all the concrete and replaced it with soft sand a couple of years before the move to the new exhibit.

    it didn't appear to be a particuarly difficult job and i don't expect it was very expensive either. there is so much evidence that concrete is detrimental to elephants health you would think that ALL zoos would have it removed by now!!

    - melbournes new barn and exhibit has virtually no concrete at all. even indoors the elephants can choose between sand and rubberised floors..
     
  8. CZJimmy

    CZJimmy Well-Known Member

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    It's the same at Chester. The elephant house is split between sand and rubber and they have even banked sand up against the walls, to allow the elephants more comfort when sleeping against the wall. The outside is also clay which is softer on their feet than concrete.
     
  9. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    As I said in my large email, the Oregon Zoo has constructed 6 exhibits in two years, and has the orangutan enclosure expansion for next year and a multi-species "Predators of the Serengeti" exhibit for May 2009. In 2010 they have tentatively committed to renovating/expanding their chimpanzee exhibit (along with a number of other primates) and after that they are thinking of looking at the elephants. I know all of this because it's on their website, and I also receive a quaterly newsletter that is quite informative.

    Some sections of the elephant exhibit have sand, but very few. The barn is mainly all concrete, and the large pool spends half the year empty due to the colder climate. Elephants are much better off in warmer climates, and the Seattle, Oregon, Edmonton and Calgary Zoos have all had numerous problems with various foot ailments with their elephants.
     
  10. William

    William New Member

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    The zoo has prevented its cows from breeding since Rose-Tu was born (1994). The zoo had three bulls at the time and did not have space for a fourth. The zoo could not risk having a baby bull that would eventually grow up -- and be forced from the herd by its mother and aunties -- with no where to go.

    Currently, the zoo has three bulls now. However, Tusko is there on a breeding loan. If Rose-Tu has a baby bull, Tusko will return to his home in California.

    Chendra came to Portland after she was orphaned. Prior to her arrival in Portland, she was wounded in her front leg and eye by a shot gun blast. She and her mother were driven away from a palm oil plantation in Sabah on the northern part of the island of Borneo. Days later she returned to the same plantation, showing signs of hunger. When her mother did not return, the calf was rescued by wildlife officials. Chendra’s leg wound was superficial, however her eye was permanently blinded. This, combined with her age, made her a poor candidate for relocation and release to the wild. It was clear that Chendra would always be dependent on humans for her survival.
     
  11. William

    William New Member

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    I agree, concrete should be abolished at zoos and HAS BEEN ABOLISHED at the Portland Zoo (with the exception of the concrete pools). Portland's zoo has soft sand and grass yards (two) and soft rubber floors in its barn. The changes from concrete to sand and grass were were made in the '90s, while the rubber flooring improvements were made several years ago. The zoo hosted the first elephant foot care conference in the mid-90s and in 1998 published a book on elephant foot care, which is used by all zoos and sanctuaries.

    The last geriatric elephant that died, Pet, was 51. She was born pidgeon toed, which caused her front foot pads to wear unevenly. Her keepers worked hard to keep her feet healthy, but she succumbed to arthritis in the summer of 2006.

    The sand yards and rubber floors seem to be helping. Packy, the oldest and largest bull in North America at 46, has healthy feet and joints.

    Two female elephants died of foot issues in the 90s, which is why the zoo made dramatic changes to its program.
     
  12. William

    William New Member

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    Packy's genes (and his father Thonglaw's) are overrepresented in North America, which is why he is not allowed to sire a calf. However, he does visit the cows once in a while, but only when they are not cycling. This is also why Packy's son Rama (who also resides in Portland) cannot sire a calf. Although, he does from time to time visit his sister SunShine, Rose-Tu and Chendra, but, again, only when they are not cycling.
     
  13. William

    William New Member

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    I agree, concrete should be abolished at zoos and HAS BEEN ABOLISHED at the Portland Zoo (with the exception of the concrete pools). Portland's zoo has soft sand and grass yards (two) and soft rubber floors in its barn. The changes from concrete to sand and grass were were made in the '90s, while the rubber flooring improvements were made several years ago. The zoo hosted the first elephant foot care conference in the mid-90s and in 1998 published a book on elephant foot care, which is used by all zoos and sanctuaries.

    The last geriatric elephant that died, Pet, was 51. She was born pidgeon toed, which caused her front foot pads to wear unevenly. Her keepers worked hard to keep her feet healthy, but she succumbed to arthritis in the summer of 2006.

    The sand yards and rubber floors seem to be helping. Packy, the oldest and largest bull in North America at 46, has healthy feet and joints.

    Two female elephants died of foot issues in the 90s, which is why the zoo made dramatic changes to its program.
     
  14. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    The two major elephant sanctuaries in the United States (in Tennessee and PAWS in California) have both been vocal about the Oregon enclosure. Keeping the bulls separate is common practice in zoos that are fortunate enough to have male elephants, but then those individuals are left with very little space.

    The pool at the Oregon Zoo is empty for great chunks of the year due to the cold climate, and the thin layer of sand has been worn down in several areas throughout the enclosure. This forces the elephants to spend time on concrete, and explains why the zoo has had problems with the animals' feet AFTER the sand was spread in 1994.

    In Defense of Animals(IDA) released a list of the "Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants in 2006" that includes the Oregon Zoo as the # 3 worst zoo in the United States for elephants. Since the # 1 culprit (the Alaska Zoo) has since gotten rid of Maggie, then that means according to the IDA the Oregon Zoo is now the # 2 worst zoo out of the 80-85 that hold elephants in the nation. Their breeding success is overshadowed by their poor elephant exhibit, and hopefully there are long-term plans to replace it. It is easy enough to look up all of this information online, and the IDA website is quite helpful with facts and data.

    IDA did a survery of 35 zoo's and their medical records, found that 62% of elephants in zoos suffer from foot problems, and they claim that 5 out of the 6 (possibly now 7) elephants at the Oregon Zoo suffer similar problems.

    I have enjoyed the Oregon Zoo twice now, as I've mentioned on this thread. But the elephant exhibit is badly outdated, and zoos such as Taronga and Melbourne and their new Asian sections put it to shame.
     
  15. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Another thing to note is that the Oregon Zoo jams 6-7 elephants onto 2 acres. The exhibit is just a tad over 2 acres, and with the bulls being kept separate that doesn't leave much space for either gender. At Taronga and Melbourne Zoos the elephant exhibits are also too small for animals that can walk thousands of miles in any given year, but have far more enrichment and allow for walks outside of the enclosure. At the Oregon Zoo the paddock has a couple of dead logs and an empty swimming pool that goes unused for most of the year.

    No small wonder that the Oregon Zoo (for all of its improvements) is ranked as # 2 for the worst zoo for elephants in the United States.
     
  16. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    us australians here have had numerous arguments and discussions over the situation with elephants in australia. we have only five zoos with elephant exhibits and the upside to this is that it didn't take much redevleopment to become a "bad elephant enclosure free country"....

    melbourne zoo's enclosure has an excellent design. with its two excellent sunlit modern barns and three ajoining paddocks it allows for great amount of flexibilty, something that is essential with complex animals such as elephants. all paddocks are concrete free. all paddocks have water pools (of varying sizes). all paddocks have shade and sun, all have enrichmet devices installed and importantly, all elephants rotate time throught the day in all exhibits. in addition to this access gates allow the female elephants can be walked though the zoo.

    these features are in my opinion, the minimum we can offer elephants. for their own mental and physical health and effective management of conservation breeding programs. i now want melbourne to expand adding a forth "social paddock" that is at least as big as the other 3 put together!

    but i'm an "elephants should be in open range-style zoos" kinda guy.

    so as massive an improvement melbournes exhibit is and as recogfnised as it it as a well thought out and functioning system (a US zoo is currently building an exhibit borrowing the melbourne design, which i think was incidently developed by US company Portico) i hope that US zoos don't continue with band-aid "minimum" exhibits like this...

    melbourne will be forced to expand again in 10 years. i'm sure.
     
  17. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Good response yet again Patrick. I support your notion that elephants should perhaps belong only in open range zoos, and that Melbourne has one of the better elephant enclosures for a typical city zoo. Space is critical to reduce stress, avoid obesity, and to halt any development of foot problems. I also detest the practice of locking elephants in at night, and believe that they should still have the full range of their exhibit if they so wish. Do Melbourne and Taronga allow their elephants free rein in the evenings? Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo won an exhibit award for its 1.5 acre elephant forest when it was built in 1989, but now it's past its prime and has come under fire from animal rights activists. They always lock their elephants indoors during non-opening hours, and so that means for a good 14 hours per day the elephants have a puny amount of room to move around in. Where are ethics when you need them?
     
  18. MARK

    MARK Well-Known Member

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  19. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    which is made worse by the fact that elephants must spend less time sleeping than any other species i can think of (okay except maybe dolphins who never truly sleep!)

    fortunately, melbourne allow the elephants access to their outdoor paddocks at night. pretty sure taronga would do the same. i can imagine that northern US zoos would restrict nocturnal outdoor activities due to the cold weather, but that makes no excuse for adopting such unreasonable managemnet practices in the warmer months.

    fortunately even the coldest melbourne nights are not really different to those asian elephants would experience in many parts of their home ranges.

    early on, when melbourne was fundraising for its new exhibit (it took about ten years!) it made some very simple alterations to their old exhibit to at least provide some additional care whilst awaiting construction. the old exhibit was terribly small and totally unsuitable for a bull and a cow who were kept permanently together, but required very different management methods.

    still they jacked-up all the concrete and replaced it with sand (not pour sand over the concrete, as someone suggested oregon did in an earlier post), installed numerous scratch tree posts and arboral feeder boxes (which make the elephants raise their trunks), shadecloth sail over part of the enclosure and added a gateway over teh moat to allow the female to be taken outside of the exhibit for walks.

    and lastly the keeping the elephants active became a full time job for the keepers with daily excercise routines etc.

    my point is it was largly very simple cheap alterations and a different management attitude that made all the difference. by the time the elephants moved into their new exhibit not only were they completely unstressed, and took to the move amazingly. and i mean that, they absolutely LOVED it.

    and these were a pair of elephants that you may expect were good candidates for becoming "problem" elephants, having spent 20 years in a largly concrete box. mek kapah (the female) was an infamous "swayer", now, i haven't seen her sway in years.

    its part exhibit, part attitudes. sounds like the woodland park elephant keepers may need some new attitudes.
     
  20. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    That's very interesting. I know Packy was the first Asian elephant born at portland Zoo. Was he also the first-or first successful- birth in the USA?