At least, as far as the Animal Rights organization, IDA, is concerned:
San Rafael, Calif. (January 15, 2013) - In Defense of Animals (IDA), an international animal protection organization with more than 100,000 members, released today its list of the Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants for 2012.
7. Oregon Zoo, Portland, Oregon - A Deal with the Devil
The Oregon Zoo ended 2012 with a lot of explaining to do. The zoo struggled under the harsh glare of the national spotlight after admitting that a baby elephant born at the zoo in December is "owned" by a notorious elephant-rental company called Have Trunk Will Travel which, like circuses, trains elephants to perform tricks. The zoo's reckless breeding program packs even more elephants into a cramped exhibit. Seven other elephants-who suffer from a range of captivity induced problems, including foot and joint disease-share a meager 1.5 acres. Instead of using a proposed offsite preserve to give the existing elephants more space, the zoo quietly shifted strategy and now plans to use the space as a second breeding facility. This is the Oregon Zoo’s fourth appearance on IDA's list.
Those wacky, fun-loving folks at IDA are always good for some giggles while begging for donations - but likely you only get it if you know more than they'd like you to.
They conveniently fail to mention, for example, that having expanded the facility once - and adding the first hydraulic elephant restraint chute ever built, which allows veterinary procedures to be accomplished safely on even dangerous adult bulls - Metro's Oregon Zoo is in the process of expanding the area available to the animals to six acres. Moreover, they ignore the fact that providing space to elephants is only part of the issue - it's equally important to find ways to encourage them to make use of the space allotted. IDA tends to gloss over that latter part: elephants aren't like people; they don't jog for no damn reason (and when they find a reason, the general term used to describe the phenomenon is stampede). They're not into pilates, either.
Nor are cold climates found in the western Pacific Northwest a significant problem: their ratio of body mass to surface area actually makes ridding themselves of excess body heat more of an issue, although their ear margins and, more rarely, the tail, are subject to frostbite. Infrared heaters installed outdoors, however, along with windbreaks, afford the animals ample opportunities to control their own microclimate comfort levels.
No organization is perfect, and the zoo is certainly no exception; numerous examples of idiocy exist without need to resort to theatrics: it's more than a little hypocritical to hold amplified concerts night after night on the front doorstep of the elephants' quarters while cautioning ODOT crews to limit their paving activities on a freeway located some 200 feet below the zoo (so as not to disturb the elephants).
But IDA, as always, carries their criticism to disingenuous extremes. Everybody's got to make their money somehow. And the rubes are always willing to give up some cash in return for some propaganda.