Guest Commentary - An Elk Grove zoo is a bad idea

By Steven M. Lee | Guest Contributor | 

Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and the Elk Grove City Council are hellbent on spending over $300M for just the first of four phases to relocate the Sacramento Zoo to Elk Grove. Under the plan, the Sacramento Zoological Society has promised to raise $50 million towards the construction. Their financials show the SZS annually struggle to raise a single million for the current zoo in Land Park.

Yes, they have a few years to raise this money, but it would be a Godsend if they raise half of what they’ve promised. Where does that shortage leave the citizens of Elk Grove? Paying the shortfall on top of our current taxes to complete the project, that’s where. Furthermore, Elk Grove taxpayers will be responsible for the shortfall if the Big Market benefactors, grants, and private donations estimated at $78 million falls short. How much in additional taxes will Elk Grove citizens be required to pay to meet these shortfalls? 

The sum is totally unknown and its unlikely construction would cease if the money runs out due to pride and ego regularly demonstrated by our mayor and council. Additional taxes, including Mello Roos will certainly be tapped and increased. 

Of all the people that spoke in the two and a half hours at the Planning Commission approval, interestingly few were from Elk Grove. Few in favor of this zoo will be financially responsible for its creation and potentially its upkeep. Think about that.

Projected attendance to make the project economically feasible requires over one million people to attend annually. Attendance may be met early on but is certain to wane as the years pass creating future financial struggles. The entire population of the entire county is 1.6 million. The SZS needs 80 percent of the entire population in the county to attend every year for the project to pay for itself, regardless of turning a profit. If half of Orangevale/Citrus Heights goes to the movies or Disneyland instead, the money doesn’t pencil out.

Enough on financing. Let’s talk about ethics, compassion, animal rights and the best interests of these animals. 

What is a zoo? It’s a for profit commercial enterprise for public entertainment. Its primary focus is generating revenue by breeding, raising and displaying animals for visitors. They’re all about money!

Zoos buy, sell, trade and forcefully breed animals. Zoos take captured animals from the wild and force them into captivity. If you take a minute to open your mind, you’ll realize that caging wild animals is a barbaric concept. It causes stress, and physical harm to the animals. All in the name of profit and human amusement. 
Zoos cause overpopulation resulting in selling or trading, sometimes to other zoos, circuses, hunting facilities or even unknowingly into highly profitable and many times to an illegal exotic pet trade. These trades and sales often break intergenerational bonds, separating babies from their mothers. Zoo animals suffer boredom, confinement, inability to interact with other species; there’s no way it can compare to freedom of the wild. By their concept, zoos aren’t worth the moral cost. They force breeding, practice euthanasia, as well as separating animal families. The data base Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Animal Exchange confirms these animals are treated as commodities, not living beings. 

Has anyone on our city staff, anyone on our city council even considered making this project a “sanctuary” rather than a zoo? 

Let me point out a few differences that may enlighten the staff, counsel and the public. In contrast, a sanctuary provides a safe haven for animals rescued from abuse, neglect or abandonment. They’re not about profit and human amusement. A sanctuary does NOT buy, sell, trade or forcefully breed animals. It takes in unwanted exotic pets, zoo surplus animals, injured wildlife and animals that can no longer survive in the wild. Animals in sanctuaries do have a chance to be returned into the wild. Sanctuaries prioritize the well-being and comfort of the animals over profit and amusement. Sanctuaries don’t offer interactions with visitors that would disrupt the animal’s natural behaviors. Sanctuaries usually offer the animals more space than zoos for the animals to roam freely. 

Zoo spaces are generally small, artificial habitats that fail to meet the natural needs of the animals causing additional stress and suffering. Sanctuaries are compassionate alternatives to zoos, they value the animals, not treat them like commodities. Sanctuaries offer the animals respect and dignity. Sanctuaries create an environment of enrichment and comfort for the animals, not for the visitors. 

It seems the Mayor and council are all about building a monument to themselves at the expense of taxpayers and well-being of the animals. 

Simply, it’s exploitation versus rescue. Which entity would you rather be associated with? If we’re going to do this, let’s make it something we can all be proud of. Write or text your Mayor and council and let them know a zoo is a bad idea. Any project that will cost our community well over half a BILLION dollars needs to be on a ballot for community approval. 

Photos via Pexels. 

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Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

People of a certain age will recall going to a circus when the animals were the main features performing their tricks. For me it was the Shriners Circus.

The circus no longer has animals there for our amusement. We learned they were poorly treated and are no longer part of the circus act. This is not to say the animals in a zoo are treated cruelly. But they are their for our amusement and the creatures can't be happy sitting in a caged area.

If the zoological society was truly interested in the welfare of animals, their focus would be for preservation of endangered species. Perhaps instead of building a small 68 acre zoo to display these animals for their amusement, on the back of Elk Grove taxpayers no less, they should focus their efforts on building larger regional nature preserves, or help build preserves in their native habitat. Anything less is just taking circus animals and sanitize the display so they can feel like they are doing something for animal welfare. Why else do they plan to have evening social and drinking affairs if not for amusement and to raise some cash?

Below is a link to a story about elephants that is revealing. Do we in the west use zoos to patronize other cultures? It's that we know better than you philosophy that is also common with colonialization. Worth considering.

Juan Trippe said...

If this thing becomes a financial drag on the city, which it is destined for (why do you think Sacramento spun it off?) - one thing is for sure. The cops will not give an inch. Vallejo bankruptcy, here we come!

Michaele Bergera said...

Sacramento Zoological Society is a non-profit, so your statement describing all zoos as if they are operating with the sole intention of making money off of the animals in their care does not apply, is untrue, and shows a lack of knowledge on CURRENT accredited zoos. There are bad zoos out there, but this is not one of them.
I have lived in Elk Grove for a long time now and have seen it change as more and more homes, shopping centers, restaurants, and other urban amenities have filled the space that used to be pastures and farmlands. Having the new zoo in Elk Grove is a great use for one of the few remaining open spaces as opposed to adding more homes, etc. It will make Elk Grove a tourism destination city, bringing with it added economic benefits to the entire region as hotels, restaurants, and other businesses see the increase in customers associated with tourism. The new zoo will bring people from across the United States, not just from the greater Sacramento region, to Elk Grove. This will bring added revenue with it, not the tax burden that some fear. This Elk Grove resident fully supports bringing the New Zoo to our city. I see this as a huge opportunity for the City and the surrounding region.

Spoons and Forks said...

Are they going to have a bar in the zoo? If Councilmember Sergio is on a bender, at least they can put him in one of those cages and he will not get caught and put the public in danger.

Golden Skillet said...

I implore the commenter above to name a zoo in the United States that people would travel out of their own state to visit without using the San Diego Zoo.

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