Elephant Craziness

Ok. Here what a non-animal activist, non-zoo supporter has concluded after learning more about elephants than I care to know. (Don’t ask me about the herpes virus.) In short:

Yes. Billy should stay at the zoo. No. Elephants in general should not be in zoos.

And finally, spending $42 million an elephant house is nuts.

Billy should stay at the zoo, but only because he’s been there since he was a toddler living in a very small enclosure. He’s now 23. When he moves into his new home he’ll be in pachyderm paradise relatively speaking. Also, zoologists point out that Billy has pristine DNA material. He came from Malaysia and has yet to make elephant whoopee. So if you’re going to try to help an endangered species, Billy got blue ribbon genes. Let’s just hope future babies have a better survival rate than past attempts have achieved.

But overall, I’ve come to believe elephants should not be on a zoo’s viewing menu. They need WAY more space than even the L.A. zoo is giving Billy. Too little space leads to serious foot and joint diseases. And a new study shows elephants have a much shorter life expectancy in zoos compared to those in protected natural areas. If they want to breed Asian elephants, can’t they do it sanctuaries?

Finally, the cost of this whole project is ridiculous. $42 million dollars for an elephant enclosure - even before cost overruns - while the City is facing a $110 million deficit and a bigger one coming next year! How did this happen? Well, as one city council member who prefers to stay nameless said, once a government project gets going it’s nearly impossible to stop. And the elephant project is already a third complete.

And on a final financial note … It’s hard to believe, but for reasons that only a municipal accountant understands, it would actually cost MORE to stop the project than finish it. That’s right. They’ve spent $12 out of $42 million. So simple math says you’ll save $30 million. Right? But wait. This is municipal math. There’s nothing simple about it. So taxpayers they tell us will save money by spending another $30 million to finish the project.

All the while human beings are homeless on the streets, gangs are terrorizing neighborhoods, and millions of people are without adequate medical care. But the zoo officials assure us they will spare no expense to give Billy the elephant the best medical care possible.

Story continues below


Pachyderm Politics - By Correspondent Val Zavala - A "wild" story of politics, pachyderms and - above all else - the city's purse strings.


Elephant Breeding - More on breeding and what it means for the elephants.
Why Does Billy Bob? - Tony Cardenas, L.A. City Councilman and John Lewis, L.A. Zoo Director on why Billy bobs his head repetitively.

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