Topeka Zoo responds to criticism about Shannon the elephant

(Photo Courtesy: Topeka Zoo)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – An international animal protection organization said it is appalled at how the Topeka Zoo handled the hours leading up to Shannon the elephant’s death.

The organization, In Defense of Animals, said the Topeka Zoo failed to monitor the 35-year-old African elephant, after she spent close to ten hours lying “downed” on the floor the night of December 10 and into the next morning, when she died.

The zoo found Shannon down early Sunday morning and tried to encourage her to stand up, but she did not. The Topeka Fire Department Technical Rescue Team and the Animal Search and Rescue Team was then called in to help later that day. After several failed attempts Sunday, she was finally able to stand and support her own weight. Then on Monday morning, December 11, the zoo reported Shannon was down again. She died later that morning.

“It is inexcusable that the Topeka Zoo staff apparently went home that night without leaving at least one person to monitor Shannon from the remote video feed,” says Dr. Toni Frohoff, Elephant Scientist at In Defense of Animals. “It should be patently obvious that a sick elephant, especially one who had been downed earlier that same day, must be watched vigilantly around the clock.”

Brendan Wiley, with the Topeka Zoo, told KSNT News he spoke with Dr. Frohoff late last week. He said their issue is that the zoo did not check on Shannon after the 8:00 check the night before she passed. He said at the time, they were seeing that she was eating, drinking and showing very normal behavior.

Wiley said zoo officials believed the best thing to do was to treat it like a normal night for Shannon and not cause any further disruptions to her sleep. He went on to say that they wish they would have checked on Shannon again and are working to update their camera system to allow remote access.

The group is calling for The Zoo to release it’s three remaining elephants to a certified sanctuary.

The zoo still does not know the cause of Shannon’s death, but hope to have results within the next ten days.




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