Billy, the lone Asian elephant at the Los Angeles Zoo, waits unsuspectingly to find out what his future will be as the City Council decides his fate.
As of today, Billy will have spent 20 years in a half-acre enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo. Now, plans must be made to determine whether or not the zoo will continue with its $42 million Pachyderm Forest project or if Billy will be sent to live in a sanctuary hundreds of miles away.
Advocates of the zoo’s project, like Jack Hanna, contend that the wild isn’t such a great place for elephants anymore and point out that the Pachyderm Forest will provide Billy with specialized care that he won’t receive elsewhere.
Hanna also points out that Billy will become inaccessible to the public if he is moved for financial and geographical reasons.
So, southern Californians won’t get to see Billy, but neither does the rest of the country. Is it really worth keeping Billy at the zoo, where 15 elephants have already died too soon, for the entertainment of such a small demographic?
Those who oppose the zoo’s project argue that zoos just can’t hold a candle to what elephants need in order to live happy healthy lives.
Elephant experts like Daphne Sheldrick and Joyce Poole argue that elephants are similar to humans and there is nothing kind or educational about keeping these sensitive animals alone in captivity for the pleasure of curious onlookers.
Studies of elephants in zoos vs. their wild counterparts have shown that elephants don’t do as well in captivity as other animals. They’re prone to a host of issues like diseases, joint problems and behavioral changes. It’s also been found that their life spans are significantly shorter than their wild counterparts. In zoos, female Asian elephants have an average lifespan of 18.9 years, while wild elephants live to an average of 41.7 years.
Elephants are highly intelligent and lead very emotional lives. It’s normal for them to travel in herds and form strong bonds with each other. Billy has been alone since May 2007, and is exhibiting what experts who have observed him would call “pathological” problems.
The $42 million the city council is willing to throw down on this project is no small change. Perhaps it would be better invested in efforts to protect elephants that are still in the wild, or in improving existing sanctuaries and educating the public about the threats they’re facing, instead of wasting it on a measly 6-acre enclosure.
The final decision about Billy’s fate will be made this Friday.
To help Billy please sign Care2′s petition.
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