Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo has kept elephants for almost a century, but the tradition has now come to an end. After a third elephant died in 2014, the zoo decided to move its two animals to a zoo in Oklahoma, where they'll have more room to roam as part of a larger herd. Other zoos are taking similar actions as national guidelines will soon require herds of at least three and larger facilities than many zoos can manage in order to reduce stress on the 159 African elephants in captivity in North America and 139 Asian elephants across the US and Canada, the AP reports. The Detroit Zoo has already retired its elephants to an animal refuge and Washington state's Point Defiance Zoo won't replace its number when the animals die out.
The Point Defiance Zoo's deputy director says Asian elephants, and perhaps African elephants, could disappear entirely from North America within a decade. About seven to nine calves a year are needed to maintain a small group, and many female elephants on the continent are past their reproductive years. Bringing in new animals is challenging given the dwindling numbers of elephants both in captivity and in the wild, where the social animals are hunted for their ivory. Officials in Thailand announced yesterday they had seized three tons of elephant tusks from Kenya, a week after another four tons were smuggled out of the Congo, USA Today reports. (Ringling Bros. is phasing out its elephants, too.)