Birmingham Zoo

Update: IDA Charges Inadequate Zoo Conditions Claimed Another Elephant’s Life


Mona has been the only elephant living at the Birmingham Zoo in Alabama since January 2005, when her companion of 48 years passed away. Female elephants are among the most social creatures in the animal kingdom, and elephants are known to grieve the loss of friends deeply. In the wild, elephants live in large matriarchal herds, and females stay with the herd their entire lives, developing complex relationships and lasting bonds. Captive elephants have the same need as free-roaming elephants to form relationships with others of their species. Such relationships are crucial to elephants' emotional and physical well-being, no matter what their age.

Dr. Bill Foster, CEO of the Birmingham Zoo, is also the current President of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), the main accrediting organization for zoos in the U.S. which sets minimum standards for the care of captive animals, including elephants. Ironically, even though Dr. Foster is President of the AZA, Mona's living conditions fall far below the organization's basic guidelines for the care of elephants.

For example, in contrast with AZA standards, Mona's outdoor enclosure has no shade, pool, waterfall, misters, sprinklers or wallow in which she can cool herself when the Southern temperatures soar. While the AZA says outdoor yards for a single adult individual should be at least 1,800 square feet, Mona's enclosure is only 1,000 square feet. This tiny amount of space is woefully inadequate for an animal that in the wild can roam 30 miles in a single day. All Mona can do is pace around in circles on the compacted dirt, exacerbating the painful foot disorders that plague her and so many other captive elephants. Finally, the AZA strongly recommends that zoos maintain female elephants in groups of at least three, and says that it is "inappropriate" to keep them alone. Yet Mona is the only elephant at the Birmingham Zoo, which still has not proposed a viable solution to her isolation.


Mona was captured in the wilds of Asia and taken from her family when she was only a baby. In 1951, she was brought to the Birmingham Zoo, where shared a small strip of land with Susie, another Asian elephant, for 48 years. Mona has lived alone since Susie died in January 2005 at the age of 55, and remains the sole elephant at the Birmingham Zoo.

Mona has lived in captivity almost her entire life, and hasn't been able to roam freely, forage for fresh grass and enjoy a natural habitat since infancy. She also desperately needs the companionship of other elephants, especially now that Susie has passed away. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee can provide all of these things for Mona, and has offered to give her a new home at no expense to the Birmingham Zoo.

What Is Being Done to Help Mona

The grassroots group Alabama Wildlife Advocates is working to get Mona sent to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. You can join hundreds of others who want the Birmingham Zoo to do what's best for Mona by signing their petition. You can also purchase a "Retire Mona" bracelet to financially support the campaign to raise awareness of her plight.

What You Can Do

Please contact Dr. Bill Foster, CEO of the Birmingham Zoo, and politely ask that he transfer Mona to a Sanctuary where she can live out her remaining years in a naturalistic environment with other female elephants.

Dr. Bill Foster, CEO
Birmingham Zoo, Inc.
2630 Cahaba Road
Birmingham, AL 35223
888-Zoo-Bham (888-966-2426)
205-879-9426 (fax)

Visit Alabama Wildlife Advocates' web site for more information on their campaign.