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For Immediate Release: 01/28/09

Born Free USA decries decision to keep Billy at inadequate L.A. Zoo

Los Angeles, CA — Instead of listening to a legion of world experts on elephants with hundreds of years of combined experience and expertise, 11 Members of the Los Angeles City Council decided today that they would cling to the vague promises of LA Zoo authorities and continue the controversial and meager Pachyderm Forest (now to be completed at a staggering cost of $42 million).

Will Travers, CEO of Born Free USA and son of the stars of the classic wildlife movie Born Free, expressed outrage at the L.A. City Council’s decision and assured everyone that Born Free USA would maintain careful scrutiny over the project.

“Having observed elephants in the wild for 25 years, protected elephants, relocated elephants, transported elephants — even released elephants — there is no doubt in my mind what best serves Billy’s needs,” said Travers. “Without question Born Free USA still believes Billy should join the dedicated and expert team at a sanctuary such as the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).”

“Opting to have Billy spend his remaining years in a $42 million ‘white elephant’ that zoo authorities hope will turn around their abysmal record on keeping elephants,” Travers added “is, in this time of financial crisis, both financially and ethically irresponsible.”

Born Free USA joined L.A. City Councilmember Tony Cardenas, Lily Tomlin, Bob Barker, and the dedicated L.A.-area activists who called for Billy to be removed from the L.A. Zoo and delivered safely to PAWS in San Andreas, California. There he could enjoy the rest of his life in a 20-acre environment, associating with other elephants in a facility that, along with The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, sets the gold standard for the care of captive elephants already in the USA.

“There is also no doubt in my mind that, in the long term, such a move would also be good for the people of Los Angeles,” Travers continued. “They will no longer have to witness the dreadful elephant house that blights their zoo. Nor will they have to observe the painfully repetitive behavior that is the outward manifestation of Billy’s inner torment. Nor, indeed, will they see the old deeply inadequate elephant facility replaced by a new and still inadequate elephant facility — disingenuously described as the Pachyderm Forest but, in reality, just another expensive gilded cage.”

Born Free USA believes the L.A. City Council must re-examine its decision and demonstrate that the mental chains that have bound the zoo to concepts from the past may, at last, be breaking. The zoo could then redirect the huge resources at its disposal (twice the annual budget that the Kenya Wildlife Service spends on conserving and protecting 6,000,000 acres of Parks and Reserves — and 33,000 wild elephants) toward redesigning and improving enclosures, such as the jaguar’s, that would be deemed shameful in many a developing country zoo.

Born Free USA is a national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the US and globally through legislation, litigation and public education. Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader on exotic animal legislation and a member of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition. More information can be found at http://www.bornfreeusa.org/.


Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916.267.7266, press@bornfreeusa.org

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