On the AZA’s website, they boast that AZA zoos holding elephants gave $1.1 million to in situ elephant conservation in 2012. They further claim that AZA members have given more than $1.4 million to the International Elephant Foundation, since 1998. All in all AZA spends $160 million on all wildlife conservation a year, or $0.89 per person, with 180 million visitors to zoos every year.
That seems like a lot of money, until you find out how much just six zoos have spent on their elephant exhibits in the last 5 years alone [x][x][x][x][x][x]. These zoos have spent or are planning to spend more than $240 million solely to enhance visitor experience for a population of animals that cannot even sustain itself in captivity. At least one of those zoos, LA Zoo, has faced harsh criticism in court for the treatment of their elephants. A judge described LA Zoo’s elephants’ lives as ”empty, purposeless, boring and occasionally painful,” and the zoo’s managers as “delusional” with “shocking gaps” in their elephant knowledge.