The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) is expressing condolences and at the same time raising serious questions about the captivity of elephants, following the death of 43-year-old African elephant Cinda on Wednesday at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas. She is the second African elephant in her 40s to die in a U.S. zoo in the past week, and one of nine zoo-owned elephants to die this year by age 45. African elephants can live to be 65 years old in the wild.
PAWS is an animal welfare organization that cares for 11 Asian and African elephants at its 2,300-acre, natural habitat sanctuary for captive wildlife in California. Five of PAWS' elephants are Cinda's age or older.
"Everyone at the Performing Animal Welfare Society sends their most heartfelt condolences to the people of Sedgwick County," said PAWS president and co-founder Ed Stewart. "We feel very sorry for Cinda and our thoughts are with everyone who cared for and about her."
Though Cinda was only 43 years old, the zoo reported that she had begun to show a "natural decline due to her age." Stewart contests the idea that elephants in their 40s are old, stating, "It is simply wrong to suggest that Cinda or any other elephant in her 40s is geriatric or elderly. The truth is that captive conditions have physically debilitated these elephants to the point where they suffer maladies normally associated with old age. It is not just a matter of natural decline due to age."