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The Buzz about Billy

The Buzz about Billy

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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8 comments

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11:16AM PST on Jan 24, 2009

It would be selfish to keep Billy at the zoo. If they really care about him, they will let him go.

4:04PM PST on Jan 22, 2009

I wonder if the people in Los Angeles are concerned about, or even know about Billy's situation. He needs more support if he is ever going to get to where he needs to be. He needs to go to the sanctuary. It is apalling that any animal, not just an elephant, is kept in such a terrible place.

12:11AM PST on Jan 19, 2009

I lived in the Los Angeles area for over 40 years and never went to the zoo for just this type of reason. This setting isn't educational; it degrades animals, especially those that are as intelligent and sensitive as elephants. A zoo, if it exists at all, should be used only as a temporary holding. Let Billy be with other Asian elephants. Imprisonment for the innocent isn't entertaining.

1:49AM PST on Jan 18, 2009

Let Billy go to a sanctuary to be with other elephants. The zoo's owner can put his son in there in Billy's place for people to gawk at. Let's outlaw all zoo's. What the hell are they for anyway? You can get all the animal eduction you need on the Discovery Channel, or hey, read a book!

11:52AM PST on Jan 16, 2009

The best thing for Billy is to go the sanctuary and let him live out a peaceful life with other elephants.

4:55PM PST on Jan 15, 2009

i agree with sharon...its crazy that there is such a difference in the life span between wild and captivity elephants...I am in shock at that number.

8:59AM PST on Jan 15, 2009

the best medicine for billy is to goto the elephant sanctuary in Tennessee to be with his kind and live out his life in peace.

6:53PM PST on Jan 14, 2009

Let's hope that the citizens of Los Angeles are concerned about doing the right thing for Billy and not their own interests and enjoyment. These are living, feeling, and sensitive creatures that deserve respect and not be treated as a form of entertainmen.

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