SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Utah’s Hogle Zoo wants to set the record straight after an animal protection organization named it one of the worst zoos for elephants.

The organization, In Defense of Animals, released its annual list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants. The organization says the list reveals “practices that harmed and killed elephants in zoos across North America in 2019.”

Utah’s Hogle Zoo was ranked #8 on the list for allegedly “keeping a mother and daughter in isolation in a cold-weather, inadequate facility.”

In Defense of Animals says the Hogle Zoo has kept African elephants Christie and her 10-year-old calf Zuri in an exhibit by themselves since 2015 when their companion Dari died.

“This is a clear violation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) elephant standards which require a minimum of three compatible elephants to be housed together,” the organization claims.

The organization also complains that the state’s climate is too cold for the animals, and during cold weather, the elephants are confined inside barns.

A representative with Utah’s Hogle Zoo disagreed with the claims and said their “well-trained team of experts does an excellent job caring for our elephants on a daily basis – monitoring their daily activities, training, enrichment, and veterinary needs.”

In a statement to ABC4 News Erica Hansen, Utah Hogle Zoo’s Community Relations Manager said the zoo is working to increase the size of its herd, but it takes time.

Hansen said the zoo is committed to the species and it has a master plan that “calls for a greater investment in elephants – with bigger barn, additional yards, and large walking paths.”

Hansen also said the elephant areas have overhead heaters and heated concrete for year-round comfort.  Most days of the year the elephants are outside and other days they’re given the option to be inside or outside and they’ll choose outside.

While In Defense of Animals suggests the animals are living a “lonely” and “empty” life, Hansen said the elephants have great interactions with each other, their keepers and the community.

This is the first time that Utah’s Hogle Zoo has appeared on the 10 Worst Zoos list.

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