© 2022 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Topeka Zoo Denies Claims That Their Elephants Are Lonely

Marion Doss, flickr Creative Commons

Topeka Zoo officials are denying claims that the zoo's two elephants are suffering from a lack of social interaction.

Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote to Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley earlier this month, asking for a meeting to discuss elephants Tembo and Sunda, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. They say the elephants are "afflicted with loneliness, boredom, and depression," and need a third elephant to interact with.

"Tembo and Sunda are being deprived of socialization, stimulation, and a complex, enriching environment, which are critical to their quality of life," said Rachel Matthews with PETA's Captive Animals Law Enforcement unit.

Matthews requested to meet with Wiley to discuss options for African elephant Tembo and Asian elephant Sunda that would allow them to be housed in a facility with other elephants. PETA wants the zoo to send the animals to a nonprofit elephant sanctuary in Tennessee, which Topeka city leaders are opposed to.

Wiley sent his response to Matthews' letter on Wednesday, declining the request for a meeting. The zoo meets Association of Zoos and Aquariums' accreditation standards, and though it has space for another elephant, adding another one this year or next year wouldn't be a good idea, because construction at the zoo could force the relocation of the elephant, Wiley said.

He said during a Wednesday news conference that "common sense would dictate we just wait."

The zoo is working to create a larger habitat capable of housing a family of elephants and has created a feeding program that increases stimulation and exercise for them, Wiley said. The zoo's health care and habitat maintenance programs also have been expanded to better monitor the elephants and provide them stimulation.

"The psychological well-being of our elephants is always at the forefront of our minds," Wiley said. "Our staff does an incredible job of addressing those needs constantly."

He declined to meet with PETA in person because he said it wouldn't be worth it for the group to send representatives to Topeka.

"At this point in time if somebody wants to talk to me, they call and I'll talk to them," he said.

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.