The obesity epidemic is affecting more than just the average American. Captive North American elephants are now the latest victims of the health crisis caused by excess weight. Seventy-five percent of captive elephants in the United States are overweight or obese, and plans to open the first “fat farm” in California, geared toward restoring the captive elephant population back to health, are underway.
The captivity of elephants in zoos across the country has lead to the health decline of this magnificent species. According to Deborah Olson, executive director of the International Elephant Foundation, these massive creatures aren’t so massive in the wild, sporting much leaner frames. Similar to humans, elephants who are overweight or obese tend to experience cardiac and infertility problems as well as painful conditions like arthritis. These health woes are posing a threat to the already endangered population.
Karl Morfeld, a wildlife endocronologist says, “In the next 50 years, the captive population will not be viable and will be extinct. In 50 years, there will be no more elephants in zoos.” While the preference is obviously to have these animals free and happily roaming their natural environments or in sanctuaries, the elephants will be fed more nutritious diets that are higher in fiber and will be given more room for physical activity at the weight loss facility. Hopefully they won’t be brought back to full health only to be returned to the kind of zoo that made them obese in the first place…
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