The L.A. Times has a poll about Billy the elephant. A new pachyderm area is planned for the Los Angeles zoo that would offer Billy a much larger space, more jungle-like, and breeding opportunities. Construction has been stopped on the addition because of concerns that this expensive project may not meet the needs of elephants after all.
The article and poll are here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2009/01/jack-hanna-anno.html
Generally, I do not support zoos. They tend to offer inadequate conditions for most animals and when breeding occurs the offspring are often killed. Further, deplorable methods have been used to obtain animals for zoos, actually contributing to the depletion of the species.
Therefore, when I first saw this poll I voted to send Billy to a sanctuary rather than continue with the construction of the pachyderm forest. I suggested to Elaine that we urge people here to vote NO in the poll (no to the forest = yes to the sanctuary).
Today I read most of the comments made on this short article and frankly I am not sure I made the right choice. Although I would almost always vote in favor or a sanctuary over a zoo this may be a time when the opposite vote is appropriate. Here’s what I’m getting from the comments:
* The sanctuary may keep Billy separated from breeding opportunities. This species is endangered and therefore breeding should be encouraged, I think. Billy would be able to breed at the zoo.
* The space is large – is it as large as a sanctuary space? I don’t know.
* Billy will get more specialized care in the zoo – is this a good or bad thing, though?
Years ago when California Condors were being captured for a captive breeding program I was skeptical, as were many persons concerned with keeping animals and birds in the wild. I suspected we’d never see any condors in the wild again, and the justification would be that they are safe in the zoo. But lo! The breeding has been going on for some time now and condors are being let back into the wild. In fact, babies have been spotted near where I live, at the Santa Margarita Lake park. The program may actually be working.
I am therefore not as skeptical as I was about such programs, although I would not say it’s a good idea to assume zoo people always have the best interests of the animals at heart. In the area of elephants in particular zoo folks have a miserable history.
So what is your take? What is your vote?