Campaigns - Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Six Flags elephants controlled through fear and pain
Living in an amusement park is no fun for the elephants at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California.

Six Flags keepers use force and physical punishment to train and maintain dominance over the elephants and make them do unnatural tricks and give elephant rides.

Six Flags handlers use bullhooks, fireplace poker-shaped devices with a sharp steel hook at the end, to stab, hook and hit the elephants in sensitive parts of the body. (Although elephant skin appears tough, it is so delicate that an elephant can feel the pain of an insect bite).

In public, keepers will prod the elephants lightly, in private, keepers have been witnessed forcefully stabbing the hook in the soft tissue behind the ears, inside the mouth, around the anus, and in tender spots under the chin.

No room to roam
Six Flags crams elephants – who naturally walk 10 miles or more a day – into small spaces that cause them to develop arthritis and foot disease.

Since 1995, nine elephants (including two full-term calves) have died at this park from causes that include: severe arthritis and feet so infected they bled and oozed pus; massive infection from a dead calf decomposing in the mother’s womb, and an elephant herpes infection in a 2-year old baby elephant who was taken prematurely from his mother.

Elephants are highly intelligent and sensitive individuals who can live 60-70 years. The Six Flags Seven: Liz (DOB 1964), Taj (DOB 1940), Valerie (DOB 1982), Tava (DOB 1978), Malaika (DOB 1987)*, Joyce (DOB 1983), Bertie (DOB 1980) are mostly wild-born elephants who deserve better than decades more of life in a noisy, crowded amusement park.

* As of Spring 2009, Malaika went from one animal-exploiting facility to another when she was shipped to the pseudo-sanctuary, Elephants of Africa Rescue Society (EARS), in Salinas, Calif. The facility is owned by exotic animal trainer Charlie Sammut, who runs a commercial business providing animals for TV and film shoots. The “sanctuary” is anything but a place of refuge for elephants, as keepers use a form of training and management founded on negative reinforcement and use of the bullhook. No true sanctuary uses fear and physical punishment to manage elephants. Sammut also uses elephants as part of his commercial ventures, including a bed and breakfast, animal training courses, and a full-contact visitor experience with an elephant.

Don’t get taken for a ride!
Elephant rides and shows are dangerous AND cruel..
Six Flags is one of only two Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited facilities in the country that allow elephant rides. For public safety and humane reasons, other zoos stopped elephant rides long ago.

Not only are the elephant rides monotonous for these highly intelligent animals – day after day walking in a circle for hours on end – they are also dangerous for the people who climb on the elephants’ backs. The constant stress of living in an artificial environment of a circus, zoo, or amusement park can drive elephants mad and cause them to rampage, causing serious human injuries. Since 1990 "performing" elephants have killed 12 people and injured 125. List of injuries and deaths due to captive elephants and elephant rides.

A tragic life
The story of Misha, an African elephant who resided at Six Flags for many years is heartbreaking, but by no means unique in the world of elephants in zoos and circuses.

Captured at age two from Africa and ripped from her family, Misha was sent to the California amusement park where she was beaten and chained into submission. During her years at Six Flags, Misha was also regularly beaten up by other elephants. For more than four years, she suffered a painful and massive abscess on her jaw. At one point, Misha’s abscess had a hole that was eight inches deep. Six Flags’ treatment included opening the abscess with a hoof knife and metal feeding tube. One time, the knife even broke and the tip was left in the wound.

Despite Misha’s “massively swollen” jaw, in May 2001 she was forced to repeatedly undergo artificial insemination using a surgical procedure that involves cutting a slit in the area below the anus. While heavily sedated for one attempt because she was “uncooperative,” a second procedure was done the next day with no sedation. As often happens, the incision site became painful and infected. By June, the site had begun to heal and she was noted to be “no longer urinating through the [incision] site.”

In Dec. 2001, Misha was confirmed pregnant. During her entire pregnancy, her chin wound was infected, draining and painful. In March 2003, Misha gave birth to a dead calf. Less than a year later, she was again artificially inseminated surgically, and the incision site again became infected. She did not become pregnant this time.

By June, 2003, Misha had had enough. She gored a trainer, piercing his body with her tusk. Miraculously, the trainer survived. Misha was isolated and kept alone for almost two years. In April 2005, she was moved to Hogle Park Zoo in Utah. Her chin abscess was still chronic and draining at that time.

Misha died in Utah in September 2008. She was just 27 years old.

All Six Flags animals suffer
Keeping wild animals in an amusement park is just not right. Unnatural conditions, cramped quarters, and noisy rides and crowds stress out animals at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and make them sick.

Dozens of animals – including 5 elephants, 2 orcas, and 4 dolphins – have died here in the past decade. We need to send the Six Flags Seven to a sanctuary before it’s too late.

What you can do

1) Join IDA’s Elephant Task Force
IDA is seeking volunteers who are interested in organizing leafleting activities at Six Flags and other zoos that have elephants. You will receive periodic updates and calls to action to help elephants currently suffering in our country.

Please contact Melissa Gonzalez for more information.
Tel: (707) 981-7701  or  Email:

2) Please write to Daniel Snyder, Chairman of the Board of Six Flags and owner of the Washington Redskins, and urge him to send the elephants to a sanctuary!

Daniel M. Snyder, Six Flags Chairman
Washington Redskins
21300 Redskins Park Dr.
Ashburn, VA 20147
Tel: (703) 726-7133
Fax: (703) 726-7124