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7 reasons why the Oklahoma City Zoo is not the worst zoo for elephants

12:05 PM EST on January 16, 2017

Last week, the In Defense of Animals (IDA) organization released their annual report and named the Oklahoma City Zoo the worst zoo in America for elephants. I found this difficult to believe. I have been to the zoo many times and all the elephants I've seen that didn't die seemed very happy. After digging through IDA's report, I found several statements that made me question their opinion of our zoo.

1. Which zoos are the best for elephants? None zoos.

The first thing in the group's report states that "most zoos that house elephants deserve to be on the Top 10" worst list. I like to know where an organization stands when I'm reading their arbitrarily made-up lists, and I appreciate their transparency. Our zoo is bad for elephants, and so is every other zoo. This is like when my wife comes downstairs and says, "You know what I hate about football? Everything." I don't need her to follow-up with a numbered list. I get it.


2. We have better elephant toys.

According to the report, elephants at the Honolulu Zoo were seen "playing with an old car battery." According to IDA's list, the Oklahoma City Zoo is worse than that one. If "name something that's good for elephants to play with" was a question on Family Feud and you answered "car battery," no one in your family would shout "good answer" while Steve Harvey stared into the camera.


3. Don't take more than you can handle.

The IDA, along with anyone who has ever seen Dumbo, doesn't like it when elephant families are "ripped apart." But isn't that more about logistics? When my neighbor's cat had kittens, we took one – not the whole litter. I think of it more like a buffet -- take all you want, but not more than you can handle. If you go to Golden Corral and take every steak off the grill "because cows are related," that doesn't make you a hero. Besides, who says an elephant wants to live in the same enclosure with his mother-in-law forever?


4. The "harrowing journey" to Oklahoma.

The IDA blames the declining health of Chai and Bamboo on the "harrowing cross-country journey from Seattle" to Oklahoma. defines harrowing as "extremely disturbing or distressing; grievous." For the record, the elephants didn't walk from Seattle to Oklahoma. They were "loaded in climate-controlled crates aboard a flatbed truck and accompanied by an entourage and special snacks." The snacks included 660 pounds of hay, as well as supplies of watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon. The cost of the trip was $111,000. That's not a harrowing journey; that's a kick-ass road trip that didn't involve getting frisked by the TSA.


5. Oklahoma's "colder climate."

The report claims that moving elephants from Seattle to the "colder climate" of Oklahoma affected their health. Remember last summer's cold climate when the roads started buckling from the heat? states that the average high temperature in Oklahoma is higher than the average temperature in Seattle every single month of a year. Charles Barkley said a lot of things about Oklahoma when the Supersonics moved here, but "those poor players are moving to a colder climate" was not one of them. The climate in Oklahoma is so cold that we literally just had an ice storm without any ice.


6. I wouldn't call waterfalls and a barn with amenities roughing it.

Another accusation is that the "zoo industry failed to act in the best interest of these suffering elephants and shipped the unfortunate pair to [the] Oklahoma City Zoo." The Oklahoma City Zoo’s Elephant Habitat is 4.5 acres in size. The elephants are fed at random times and in random places so they can search for their food. The habitat offers shaded areas "primarily comprised of grass, dirt, mud, water, and sand with heated flooring inside the barn." Wikipedia adds that the habitat contains "three spacious outdoor yards, pools, a waterfall, shade structures, and a barn with amenities." The elephants are allowed to swim and "perform other natural behaviors like mud wallowing, body dusting, walking and resting."

In comparison, my cubicle at The Lost Ogle is 6'x6' and contains no amenities, save for a coffee mug left behind by someone named Marisa. I only get to swim when White Water is open, I've been body dusted twice and it wasn't pleasant, and the only time I’ve ever experienced heated floors was when my downstairs neighbor started a meth lab. In almost every sense the elephants have it better than I do.


7. Chai lost 1,000 pounds after arriving.

So maybe hiding the elephants' food in random places wasn't the best idea. And while 1,000 pounds sounds like a lot, Chai weighed 8,150 pounds when she left Seattle. That’s a weight loss of 13%. My doctor says I need to lose about 25% of my body weight, which somehow means I'm twice as fat as an elephant. Did you know the average elephant produces 165 pounds of dung daily? A thousand pounds for an elephant is literally six poops.


My kids love the Oklahoma City Zoo and I can't believe it is the worst zoo in America for elephants. If the IDA is convinced that all zoos are terrible for elephants, I propose that we release ours down near the Oklahoma River. I think they would appreciate the freedom, and perhaps there, elephants and man could finally live together in peace. I spent all weekend programming a simulation to see how this will play out.

On second thought, I vote we keep them at the zoo (and double check the habitat for car batteries).

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