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Animal rights group applauds Buffalo Zoo shuttering its elephant exhibit

Michael Mroziak
Jothi and Surapa are moving to the Big Easy this fall.

In Defense of Animals is welcoming the news that the Buffalo Zoo is shutting down its elephant exhibit. The California-based animal rights group has included the exhibit five times over the last 10 years on its list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America.

A day after World Elephant Day, Buffalo Zoo officials announced their Asian elephants - Jothi, 36, and Surapa, 35 - will move to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans this fall. In Defense of Animals says New Orleans will be a "healthier" and "more suitable climate" for the tropical packyderms, compared to Buffalo winters.

"This is a positive move for Jothi and Supara, but we will continue our work to get them to an accredited elephant sanctuary where they can live as elephants instead of as exhibits," said IDA elephant scientist Dr. Toni Frohoff. "One less miserably freezing zoo exhibit for tropical elephants is a cause for great celebration.”

The group said the moving announcement also comes two weeks after it submitted requests to the zoo and City of Buffalo for the elephants’ most recent medical records.

Two years ago, IDA noted that the $2 million the Buffalo Zoo spent on remodeling its Elephant House "was essentially wasted."

"If improving the welfare of the elephants was really the end-goal, the funds should have been invested in moving Jothi and Surapa to a warm-weather sanctuary where they would live infinitely better lives," the group posted on its Facebook page.

When Jothi and Supara are relocated in the fall, IDA says the Bronx Zoo in New York City will become the last zoo in the state "to hold Asian elephants captive." The group says three Asian elephants at the Bronx Zoo suffer many of the same issues as Buffalo's elephants.

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