Tests show elephant killed by elephant
J. Harry Jones Dec. 20, 2011
SAN PASQUAL VALLEY — Tests results have determined that the African elephant that died at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park last month suffered severe traumatic injuries due to an encounter with another elephant, a zoo spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The results of a post-mortem exam on Umoya, along with staff observations, led to the conclusion that was suspected from the beginning.
“Because elephants are very large, strong animals, we recognize that even accidental moves on their part can cause serious damage,” spokeswoman Yadira Galindo said in a statement.
“African elephants are wild animals and the herd at the Safari Park is maintained in a way that encourages natural social behavior. Aggressive encounters between elephants occur in the wild and sometimes result in death.”
Umoya, one of the dominant female elephants at the park, died early the morning of Nov. 17. No one saw what happened, and the 21-year-old elephant’s injuries, described as scrapes without much blood, didn’t immediately appear severe enough to be fatal.
Umoya was born in Kruger National Park in South Africa around 1990. In 2003, she was one of several African elephants that the zoo imported from Swaziland, where officials said they were going to be killed because of elephant overpopulation.
Animal rights activist fought the move, calling it inhumane to take elephants from the wild and place them in captivity. They disputed that the group actually faced death.
Two days after Umoya died, the animal rights group In Defense of Animals asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the circumstances. Galindo said the zoo reported the death to the USDA.
She said Tuesday that animal care staff at the park continue to work with the African elephant herd, duplicating wild herd interaction, including occasionally separating bull elephants at night, periodic separations of female groups and allowing Umoya’s two youngsters, ages 4 and 1 1/2, to receive some parenting from other herd members.
“All such management is accomplished through a protected contact system where humans have little interference in natural elephant encounters. Umoya’s youngsters are doing well and gaining weight,” she said.
Doctor Debora’s Comments:
The story of Umoya’s traumatic and untimely death begs to have the background stories told. Only once one understands the bigger picture, can one grasp the magnitude of death and despair epitomized by this latest tragedy at the San Diego Wild Animal Park (SDWAP).
Although the SDWAP offers significantly more room and a more temperate climate for elephants than most other zoos and parks, they are still far from replicating nature and the social conditions that this magnificent and ancient species have evolved for. In addition, typical of all ‘for-profit’ businesses, the SDWAP’s decisions are based on what is in the best interests of their bottom line, and not the best interests of the animals in their charge. A perfect example of this, is the story of elephants Wankie, Tatima, and Peaches. Continue reading