Why Billy the Elephant Should Be Moved to a Sanctuary

Billy, a 32-year-old Asian elephant, has spent almost his entire life at the Los Angeles Zoo. As he wanders around the “Elephants of Asia” exhibit, which is also home to two female Asian elephants named Jewel and Tina, Billy is often seen bobbing his head and rocking back and forth – sure signs of stress.

Efforts to find a better home for Billy date back at least to 2007, when actor Robert Culp and real estate agent Aaron Leider filed a lawsuit calling for the zoo’s original elephant exhibit to be shut down. According to the lawsuit, the zoo withheld medical care for the elephants, confined them to a small area and used cruel bullhooks and electric prods to control them.

After a trial in 2012, Superior Court Judge John L. Segal wrote in his decision, “All is not well at the Elephants of Asia exhibit. … Contrary to what the zoo’s representatives may have told the Los Angeles City Council in order to get construction of the $42 million exhibit approved and funded, the elephants are not healthy, happy and thriving.”

The exhibit was not shut down, but the judge ordered the zoo to exercise the elephants for two hours every day, till the exhibit’s soil on a regular basis to prevent health issues, and to stop using bullhooks and prods.

Now, five years later, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz wants Billy to go to a more suitable habitat and has introduced a motion that will “free Billy” by moving him out of the zoo.

The 6.56-acre Elephants of Asia exhibit has waterfalls, pools and hills. It’s an improvement over the elephants’ original small enclosure, but it still doesn’t provide adequate space for the Asian elephants, who may walk as many as 30 miles a day in the wild. The city council approved construction of the exhibit in 2009 despite protests from animal advocates, including Lily Tomlin, Cher and Bob Barker, who wanted the elephants permanently moved to a sanctuary.

“For many years, Billy has lived in an area completely unnatural for an animal of his size and of his stature,” Koretz stated last week. “With a constrained amount of land on which to roam, it is virtually impossible for Billy to get the daily exercise he needs to be both physically and psychologically healthy.”

In the wild, highly intelligent Asian elephants maintain complex social relationships. However, Koretz said, male and female elephants in captivity must be kept separate, so the L.A. Zoo’s three elephants aren’t able to use the habitat’s entire 6.56 acres. Billy, who’s separated from Jewel and Tina by a corral, is not getting the exercise he needs to stay physically and psychologically healthy.

In addition, Koretz’s motion points out that the zoo has subjected Billy to extremely invasive procedures in attempts to collect genetic material to be used in assisted captive breeding efforts.

“Unfortunately, techniques for freezing an elephant’s (reproductive material) and then thawing it at the opportune moment have not been perfected,” the motion states. “This suggests that Billy could continue to be subjected to invasive treatment in the future with scant prospect of effectuating successful breeding.”

Billy Doesn’t Bob His Head Because He’s Hungry

Not surprisingly, the zoo is fighting Koretz’s motion. “Much has been said about the zoo’s elephant program, including persistent misinformation and inaccuracies as it specifically relates to our male Asian elephant, Billy,” it said in a press release.

During a tour of the Elephants of Asia exhibit offered to the media the day after Koretz released his statement, Zoo Director John Lewis said that despite the barriers separating them, the three elephants are able to touch each other and share their food.

As for Billy repetitively bobbing his head, Lewis insisted the elephant only exhibits this unusual behavior at feeding time, “in anticipation of his keepers, when he hears them in the barn.”

Melya Kaplan, founder of the nonprofit Voice For The Animals Foundation, called that explanation “insane.”

“It’s not about food, it’s about boredom,” she told the Courthouse News Service. “It’s about depression. It’s about the fact that he has nowhere to walk.”

Koretz’s motion will next be considered by the Los Angeles city council’s Arts, Parks and River Committee.

Please join more than 193,000 people who have signed this petition urging the Los Angeles Zoo to do the right thing and free Billy.

Photo credit: YouTube

100 comments

pam w
pam w9 months ago

OK...here we go again. Have ANY of you actually BEEN to the zoo? It's a six+ acre enclosure with three pools, (two are deep, one shallow for wading), mature trees, carefully constructed hills (builds leg muscles) and daily enrichment. There's a waterfall. Despite what "Karen" says (below) the elephants have access to all areas of the exhibit. Females are NOT in direct contact with Billy because FEMALE ELEPHANTS IN THE WILD LIVE APART FROM MALES! The only times the genders mingle are when a cow is in estrus. (Guess you didn't know that?)

Our two females are being carefully introduced to the newest female. All three are rescued circus animals and, as senior citizens, will NOT be bred with Billy. HOWEVER...he's a prime candidate for breeding and we are seeking an age-appropriate female for him.

Animals move around in the wild for the following reasons: food, water, safety and mates. Give them these things and they're more than happy to hang out in a safe environment. The idea that elephants "NEED" to wander around for miles every day is purely anthropomorphic.


PETA, IDOE, IDA and other organizations have all drunk the Kool-Aid, friends, and I personally have seen and heard them LIE and EXAGGERATE the same way posters here are doing.


If you REALLY care about this issue, I invite you to actually visit LA Zoo and see for yourself.

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Karen Eisenlord
Karen Eisenlord10 months ago

BILLY THE ELEPHANT IS NOT DOING WELL AT THE LOS ANGELES ZOO
Billy, who is the sole male elephant, has to be kept apart from the other elephants who are females, usually in a small enclosure. The only 'contact' Billy has with the other elephants is through bars periodically. This is akin to saying a prison inmate has quality contact with his family with a wall in between them.
Even if Billy had the full 6.5 plus acres all to himself, this would still not be enough room to meet his needs. There is no way that the daily needs of elephants kept in a zoo can make up for the elephants being in a more natural environment that is conducive to their health and well-being to roam over miles of earthy terrain and forage for food to prevent arthritis, boredom and depression that elephants kept in zoos acquire, such as tuberculosis and herpes.
Much of the over 6.5 acres is deceptively made to look like the elephants have more room than they do as it is divided into sections and areas that the elephants have no access to. There are narrow paths that are lined with electrified fences and even the trees are electrified to keep the elephants from pushing on them, which is their natural behavior. There are many things that elephants in zoos are deprived of that is normal for them and conducive to their good health and happiness, which a zoo cannot realistically provide.
Billy is kept separate from the other elephants, and they are rotated from one 'corral' to another thr

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Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Telica R
Telica Rabout a year ago

Don't know who to believe

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pam w
pam w1 years ago

If you REALLY want to know the truth about Billy, look here.

http://www.lazoo.org/bestforbilly/


PETA LIES! Those ''videos'' are false and the statements PETA has made are false.

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pam w
pam w1 years ago

PETA and IDOE have been circulating this TRASH for years! Billy, Tina and Jewel have a FIVE ACRE exhibit, with three pools, hills, walking paths, enrichment all day long and a beautiful barn with heated floors. The substrate in their exhibit is carefully designed to exercise their feet and legs. PETA and IDOE tell lies because, as Jack Hanna says ..."Their REAL agenda is to either close or control all zoos." Despite the fact that zoos breed and save endangered animals, despite the fact that zoos educate millions of people every year....despite the fact that zoos have saved many endangered species....these power-mad groups will tell you lies to get you to sign their meaningless petitions. If you REALLY want to know about our elephants....contact the zoo, visit the zoo, look on the zoo's website,.

(Billy's head-bobbing is something he does to engage keepers. He's NOT ''neurotic" and, when keepers go home at night...he's VERY good at telling time...he stops. I've known Billy for 25 years and would never, EVER want to see him leave the excellent care he gets at LA Zoo.)

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Marianne R
Marianne R1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Marianne R
Marianne R1 years ago

Yes!

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Lorraine Andersen

Hopefully Billy will get a new home with other elephants. Thanks for sharing

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Janis K
Janis K1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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