Buffalo Zoo

The Buffalo Zoo leaves much to be desired. Located next to the city’s historic Delaware Park, the Zoo boasts the title of being the third oldest zoo in America. Few that visit the zoo would deny this to be true, since the animals and facilities that cover the grounds seem to have been rarely updated since the gates first opened in 1875.

The Zoo itself is not very large and offers an extremely generic variety of animals. Many of the animals are confined to small living environments, primarily constructed of concrete, that are not at all like the animals’ natural living environment. While zoos across the country have worked to improve outdated facilities, the Buffalo Zoo remained complacent for decades. As for the animals themselves, many seem emaciated and constantly exhausted.

Care of the animals has become a hot button issue in recent years. In November of 2007, a report was released by the United States Department of Agriculture outlining concerns about the recent deaths of animals at the zoo. The investigation first began after reports of mistreatment by handlers towards Elephants were brought forth. Concerns were further escalated following the deaths of several animals, including three polar bears in the span of 16 months. One of the bears was apparently left alone under a powerful sedative which was needed for an upcoming procedure. The bear wandered about the enclosed area he was left in and eventually fell to his death into an empty pool. The eventual USDA report, released November 20th, 2007, found more deaths including that of a fourth bear, caused by eating garbage that was left in its cage, as well as a hyena who was killed by a falling boulder.

Outrage by animal rights groups soon followed the reports release. The group known as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) immediately filed a press release calling for the withdrawal of accreditation to the Buffalo Zoo by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The Zoo however remains accredited by the organization through 2011.

For their part, the Zoo has made moves towards improvement. A 15 year plan, and $75 million capital campaign to go with it, was unveiled in 2002. This marks the first major attempts to improve the zoo since the 1930s. However, since a large portion of the complaints seem to be about the handling of the animals, it is unclear if the campaign will solve the problem.

Perhaps I am being unfair to the Zoo. Their gorilla exhibit is top-notch and the improvements, particularly the South American Rain Forest, do seem to be heading in the right direction. However, if you are truly an animal fanatic, you are better off spending the few hours in the car and heading up to the Toronto Zoo, which has more up to date and animal friendly facilities.