Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
Yesterday I flew to Los Angeles to assess for myself the situation of Billy, the sole elephant at the LA Zoo. Billy lives on less than half an acre of compacted soil and mud. The zoo proposes to spend $42 million to construct a new exhibit area and bring in more elephants.
In my view and the view of numerous experts who spent a lifetime studying elephants, what Billy endures now and what is proposed by the LA Zoo for Billy fall woefully short of what could and should be achieved for this unfortunate animal. Regardless of what criteria you wish to apply — space, social environment, physical and psychological needs, financial, conservation, education — what Billy has at the LA Zoo and what is being proposed by way of the exorbitantly expensive Pachyderm Forest — a misnomer if ever I heard one — is totally inappropriate and inadequate.
I think we need to step back, take a long, measured and unselfish look at the situation and decide not only what is best for Billy but what is right.
January 20 was an historic moment in Washington DC as we ushered in a new President. A President who recalled that the first film he remembers was Born Free, a film that brought a tear to his eye. President Obama said we have to have “a new way of doing things.” We were told that we faced hard choices, challenging times. But that by positively and openly stepping forward to meet those challenges we would prevail, we could make our world fit for life on earth.
Billy’s future is symbolic of that challenge.
Sure we can cling to the old ways, the old ideas. Make the enclosure a bit bigger, throw a load of money at it, convince ourselves that what we are doing for elephants is okay, good enough ... Or, we can be courageous, far-sighted, innovative, and compassionate. We can change Billy’s life and take a momentous step along a new path, one which establishes a new agenda, one which demonstrates our determination to reject what is second best in favor of the very best.
Inspired by Councilman Cardenas, the members of the LA City Council have a choice: Live in the past or embrace the future. There is no doubt in my mind what is the right choice for Billy. It is now up to the Council to be wise and do the right thing.
The Los Angeles Times poll on whether Billy should stay at the zoo or be sent to a sanctuary is still open, currently running 7 to 3 in favor of the zoo. Let them know what you think!