The Natural Bridge Zoo in Rockbridge Country in Virginia and no stranger to controversy, but somehow has managed to keep its doors open despite a long list of violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
The besieged zoo first gained the attention, and fury of animal advocates in 2014 after an undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States exposed the dismal conditions, abuse, and neglect the animals housed there were subjected to; particularly, the zoo’s lone African elephant, Asha.
Horrifically, for years, Asha has remained mostly isolated, except when forced to give rides in unbearable heat, spending winters chained indoors and suffering at the hands of keepers who use a bullhook to control her.
Most recently, on June 20, 2017, the USDA cited Natural Bridge Zoo with multiple violations ranging from cramped animal enclosures to inadequate veterinary care. The report also revealed that Asha’s enclosure was found to be inadequate to prevent her escape.
Now, following this new raft of public safety and animal welfare violations, In Defense of Animals (IDA), which has listed Natural Bridge Zoo on its Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America for four consecutive years, is calling for the immediate closure and sanctuary retirement of abused animals.
“The appalling and archaic conditions at Natural Bridge Zoo should fill every American with shame that this roadside atrocity is allowed to keep Asha the African elephant alone from all others of her kind for years in deplorable conditions,” said IDA’s Elephant Scientist, Dr. Toni Frohoff. “Forcing this majestic elephant, it poses a serious and unnecessary health and safety risk to the public.”
According to In Defense of Animals (IDA), in 2016 the USDA cited Natural Bridge for a number of violations including the mishandling of Asha by her keepers. In 2015, the USDA found a whopping 62 Animal Welfare Act violations. In 2014, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries suspended the Zoo’s permit after the USDA found 44 violations of the Animal Welfare Act, but could only keep the attraction closed temporarily. The Zoo has violations going back as far as 2004.
“As bans of elephant performances and rides are enacted throughout the U.S. and internationally, archaic facilities like Natural Bridge Zoo, owned and operated by repeat offenders of the Animal Welfare Act, need to be shut down for good,” said Dr. Frohoff. “The city of Richmond, Virginia passed a bullhook ban that will go into effect in 2018, confirming that people are no longer tolerating abusive exploitation of elephants.
Please Join Animal Advocates That Are Demanding For The Closure Of Natural Bridge Zoo. It’s long overdue!