Community, Zoo Staff Mourn the Loss of Scotty

by scrosby on May 13, 2010

by Stephanie Crosby

Life goes on at the Louisville Zoo, though director John Walczak says the loss of three-year-old elephant Scotty has been hard on employees there. Scotty was euthanized last night after a week-long gastrointestinal illness.

Walczak says Scotty was beloved by the community and by his keepers, and his loss has been difficult to deal with.

“It’s a very sad time,” says Walczak. “They’re professionals, but this is a devastating setback, but they’re all in there right now, doing their jobs, and doing it very professionally, but it’s been very hard. We’re concerned and we’re taking care of each other to get through this.”

Walczak says they’re setting up a memorial outside the zoo’s offices where people can leave notes and drawings of Scotty. They’re also accepting donations that will be given to elephant conservation, and they’ve put a memorial on the zoo’s Facebook page.

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Paddy May 15, 2010 at 6:12 pm

We are so sorry for the loss of your beloved Scotty. He was an ambassador and will be missed by so many.

margaret france May 15, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Very sad news, but his life as an adult captive bull (male) elephant managed in circus style “free contact” would not have been pretty… bull hooks, negative reinforcement, chaining, long hours alone in a barn. He’s in a much better place. Those who wish to donate to “real” conservation work should send their money to organizations that are providing direct field/service work, not zoos.

Ashley May 15, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Zoos should not have to exist but without them, a majority of the public would never get to observe, witness, and be awed by these amazing animals. Without captive elephant programs, people will not be inspired to contribute their finances or their time in attempts at preserving this species. How does a person ever grow up and begin a career in conservation or research without firsthand experiencing and seeing these animals? Not all zoos are created equal, some are horrible while others greatly enrich the lives of the inhabitants.
I have worked free contact and protected contact with elephants before. Those elephants in a free contact system experience more one-on-one time and mental stimulation with their handlers than those in a protected contact setting. A bull hook, like any tool can be used gently or destructively depending on the hands that use it. A great many of the African elephants in zoos are placed there because their other alternative was to be culled in their native land. Is it really better that they should die than live out their days inspiring countless numbers of zoo visitors?

margaret france May 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Really? So watching a zoo elephant standing motionless and totally disengaged or swaying or rocking back and forth in a tiny enclosure is inspiring? And if captive zoo elephants were truly living such wonderful mentally and physically stimulating lives, they wouldn’t need ANY “one on one” contact with their handlers. The very idea that zoos have to provide “enrichment” speaks to the inadequacy of the conditions in which they keep elephants. And, gosh, I and hundreds of other people who work on real conservation don’t recall that a visit to a zoo when we were young children was the “wow” moment that lit the fire, so to speak. If so, where are the MILLIONS of zoo visitors so powerfully inspired by a trip to a local zoo that they dedicated their lives to conservation and research? The hyperbole of statements like this are laughable. Nice marketing line. And no matter how GREAT the care that zoo elephants receive is, it doesn’t equate with good animal welfare. Just look at how young they die in zoos, much shorter life spans than in the wild. Numbers don’t lie.

Jake May 17, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Margaret Like most people or should I say animal rights person You have your information wrong. I have done studies of wild elephants and thay live much shorter lives than their Zoo conterparts. It is a shame that you would spread miss information becuse something you have read on a web site. It is people like you who are hurting our efforts to conserve this amazing animal I dont normally respond to such miss info but you need to get your info right before you comment on something you know nothing about

Jane May 16, 2010 at 9:12 pm

As someone that has worked in the zoo field for 20 years, I have to agree with Ashley. She never said that every person that ever visited a zoo would devote their life to conservation. Just like every young person that visits an emergency room and is helped by the incredible people working there will not all grow up to be doctors, but some will, so every zoo visitor will not grow up to be a conservationist. And you say look at how young the elephants die in zoos (young animals do die in zoos just as they do in the wild, but many of the animals in zoos live well beyond the life expectancy of their wild counterparts). Have you ever seen an elephant calf killed and eaten by lions? Elephants, like every other animal in the wild, are subject to all the harsh realities that “freedom” brings. There are arguable pros and cons for either view point. The fact that zoos provide enrichment does not “speak to the inadequacy” of the conditions the animals are housed in. Enrichment is meant to provide mental stimulation and in most cases allow the animals to practice normal behaviors they would in the wild. It is meant to provide variety and to enhance the environment the animals experience in the zoo. Captive animals which are housed in responsible facilities receive the best of care. During a drought, or an extremely cold winter, how many of the animals at your local zoo died of starvation or dehydration? They do not have to struggle to survive from day to day. They are not shot for wandering onto a farmers land and eating his crops because there is not enough food for them left in the “wild”. They don’t die a slow death because they cannot eat because of an injury. They receive the best veterinary care available. I will be the first to agree that in a perfect world, zoos would not exist and the animals would be allowed to live out their lives untouched by human encroachment. But our world is far from perfect. And as an animal lover myself, I can honestly say that many captive wild animals are provided a much better life than many of their fellow conspecifics experience by being free.

margaret france May 17, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Well, how many wild elephants die, prematurely or not, of osteomyelitis, severe osteoarthritis or intestinal problems from years of NSAIDs administered for pain relief? How many wild elephants die from these captive induced diseases caused by standing, basically motionless, on hard packed dirt or concrete for decades of their life? How many captive baby eles are killed by their mothers (Memphis), or in zoo moats, etc.? How many wild elephants have to be fitted for boots to ease their rotting feet? I’ll take a kill from a lion any day.. at least it’s quick.. the bull hook kills slowly, over decades, the spirit of these gentle giants. They are WEAPONS, plan and simple. Traditional zoos cannot meet the needs that are so critical for healthy elephants. How about some regional zoos in CLIMATES more akin to their natural homelands? Elephants in Ohio? Arctic foxes and polar bears in Miami? Right.. MUCH better CARE, but very poor WELFARE.

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