WAN has learned from In Defense of Animals that the Milwaukee County Zoo plans to move a female African elephant named Seeni from the Pittsburgh Zoo’s International Conservation Center — a move that will sever a strong bond with an elephant companion named Sukiri at the Pittsburgh Zoo that has lasted for 25 years. The plan to relocate Seeni to Milwaukee County Zoo without her long-term companion Sukiri comes after the Pittsburgh Zoo sent their third companion, Thandi, to the Granby Zoo in Ontario, Canada, in 2019. Thandi was also very bonded to the pair.
“Social bonds are everything to elephants,” said Fleur Dawes of In Defense of Animals in a statement. “Seeni lived with Sukiri and Thandi since the 1990s when they were captured from the wild after their families were killed in separate slaughters. Last year, Thandi was sent to a Canadian zoo. Now Milwaukee County Zoo’s cruel plan would have Seeni housed in a separate facility from Sukiri as well. The zoos’ shocking disrespect of this long-bonded elephant trio amounts to animal abuse. We call on the zoos to end their callous mistreatment of elephants and permanently reunite these three in an accredited sanctuary.”
In Defense of Animals obtained documents under Wisconsin’s Open Records Law that revealed a loan agreement between the two zoos, detailing plans to ship Seeni from the Pittsburgh Zoo’s International Conservation Center (ICC) in Somerset, Pennsylvania, to the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin. The documents did not reveal when the planned transfer would take place.
Seeni was captured from the wild in the 1990s after her family was slaughtered. Shortly after, she was raised by a family in Botswana along with Thandi and Sukiri. The three elephants made headlines in 2003 thanks to a visit from then-President George Bush in the Mokolodi Nature Reserve. They were shipped to Pittsburgh Zoo’s ICC in 2011.
In 2017, Seeni gave birth to a female calf. Shockingly, Pittsburgh Zoo cruelly separated Seeni from her newborn within one day of birth, and put the calf on display too soon afterward. The calf later sickened and was euthanized at just three months old.
Pittsburgh Zoo forfeited its accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2015, after refusing to comply with occupational safety standards for handling elephants.
Pittsburgh Zoo has been ranked as the #1 Worst Zoo for Elephants in 2019. The Milwaukee County Zoo has been featured on In Defense of Animals’ list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants three times.
“The Milwaukee County Zoo and Pittsburgh Zoo repeatedly rank among the worst zoos in North America because they refuse to stop harming and exploiting elephants,” continued Dawes. “We call on the Milwaukee County Zoo, Pittsburgh Zoo and Granby Zoo to permanently retire Seeni, Sukiri and Thandi together at a warm-weather sanctuary.”
In Defense of Animals’ list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants for 2019 illustrates striking examples of the different ways that zoos harmfully dominate elephants, including separating long-bonded individuals and family members, repeatedly forcibly inseminating females, and condemning others to a life of extremely unnatural solitude.
Elephants cannot thrive in zoos. Many zoos have already shut down their elephant exhibits or plan to phase them out. In Defense of Animals is calling for the Milwaukee County Zoo and Pittsburgh Zoo to do the same.
Please call the numbers below to politely ask the Milwaukee County Zoo and Pittsburgh Zoo NOT to separate the bonded elephant pair, Seeni and Sukiri, and to please move them to an accredited sanctuary.
Milwaukee County Zoo (414) 771-3040
Pittsburgh Zoo (412) 665-3640