In response to the San Antonio Zoo’s “facts” about Lucky, we’ve typed up our own. Get the real facts about her here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Re: How old is Lucky? What is the lifespan of an Asian elephant?

Lucky was wild-caught in Thailand before she was a year old and brought to San Antonio at the age of two. She is now 54. In captivity, the average lifespan of an elephant is less than 50 years. Lucky is the only elephant at the San Antonio Zoo to have lived over 50 years, besides Boo who arrived at 56 years old and died at 59. At least seven elephants have died there under the age of 50. In the wild, if unmolested by humans, elephants, African or Asian, can live over 65 years. [Source]

Is Lucky’s habitat adequate?

No. The zoo has had to file for a variance with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) because they do not meet the standards set forth by the AZA’s Standards for Elephant Management and Care. Lucky is alone, which violates AZA standards, her exhibit is antiquated, the moat around her exhibit had to be grandfathered by the AZA, and the substrata is compact and unnatural to her species; she hasn’t touched adequate grass in at least 52 years. Additionally, she cannot fully submerge in her pool, and before Alport died in 2007, an African elephant, further violations were occurring, housing an Asian and African together against AZA standards.

Re: Does Lucky have a foot infection or foot problems? But isn’t the San Antonio Zoo’s elephant exhibit coated with sand, not concrete?

Yes it is, however the exhibit itself was built in a rock quarry, so the top coat of sand is often insufficient to cushion the feet the way grass and other natural substrata would. Natural substrata is necessary to maintain proper foot care, which is why the San Antonio Zoo has to give Lucky regular “foot pedicures,” something that is wearing away at the padding of her feet and making them tender and sensitive, sensitive to extreme temperatures in the sand, caused by the heat of a Texas summer and lack of shade.

How is Lucky’s overall health?

Past zoo veterinarian, Mel Richardson, has pointed at possible arthritis and issues with her weight. The zoo says she is a picture of health, however, though they have declined anyone access to her medical records. If she is as fit and healthy as the zoo reports, why would there be an issue with her being moved to a more progressive facility? While age may also be a factor, there have been many successful transfers of older elephants across the world.

Why does Lucky rock back and forth?

The San Antonio Zoo would have you believe that this usually indicates an expectation because she “wants food, enrichment time, a bath, or when she wants access into her barn and sometimes, when she just wants attention.” While we have observed such behavior, we have also documented cases where Lucky had complete access to food, already enjoyed enrichment times, already had a bath, had complete access to her barn, and the keepers had already left for the day. This is considered stereotypical behavior, something caused by stress, boredom, or psychological issues.

Is Lucky’s pool adequate? How often is the pool cleaned and drained?

No. The water is deep enough that it reaches above her knees but not much further. The zoo will have you believe that she can submerge, and that may be the case if she were to lie on her side, however, this does not make it adequate or deep enough for an Asian elephant that would be in waters well over their body size without having to lie down. They swim and move about in ways not possible in the small pool Lucky has. The water has been observed low or dirty, proof that her pool is not cleaned or drained enough, as evidenced by multiple observations by our team, see: Flickr.

Will the San Antonio Zoo get another Asian elephant?

No. They have publicly stated that they intend for Lucky to die there alone. Their intent has always been for African elephants, not more Asians. While she remains in San Antonio, there can be no improvements to meet her needs. The exhibit is entirely landlocked in a rock quarry. There is simply not enough room to expand it to meet the needs of Lucky. The San Antonio Zoo needs to close their current exhibit until such a time that a more progressive exhibit can be constructed.

Why is it so important for Lucky to leave the San Antonio Zoo?

There have always been plans for a new elephant exhibit, but it has always been for African elephants. Lucky is, meanwhile, acting as decoration, in an outdated exhibit until that time comes.

Would you only be happy if zoos got rid of elephants forever? Are you extremists?

No. In fact we’re pleased with elephant exhibits across the nation that maintain progressive exhibits conducive to the needs of the species, including the North Carolina Zoo and the SanDiego Zoo, among others. If the San Antonio Zoo were to construct a progressive exhibit and elephant program, after retiring Lucky, we would be less likely to maintain a campaign against them. We are a conservation group, not extremists.

How does the San Antonio Zoo help in elephant conservation?

Since its establishment in 1914, the San Antonio Zoo has kept a total of 11 elephants, not including Lucky. They have never successfully produced a single calf. At least four elephants died before the age of 36, but as records aren’t perfect, this number may be as high as six. More than half of the zoo’s elephants never saw it past 36, which is low even by zoo standards. In such conditions, it’s no wonder they were never successful in breeding. While we commend their efforts and donations on behalf of elephant conservation outside of the zoo, their care of Lucky and her needs as a species should be their first priority and that has clearly fallen flat.

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