As zoo debates heat up, bill signals change for captive elephants nationwide
Sacramento, CA — Nationwide, zoos are finding themselves embroiled in a furious debate over the plight of captive elephants. Due to animal welfare concerns, many zoos have closed exhibits and chosen to retire captive elephants. Others are debating their current and future capacity to properly care for such high-maintenance animals.
The state of California has taken the debate one step further with the introduction of the Elephant Protection Act (AB 3027). The bill is the first of its kind to be debated in the nation and will be heard Tuesday, April 25, in the California legislature.
If passed, AB 3027, authored by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) and sponsored by the Animal Protection Institute (API), will make it a misdemeanor to use or be in the possession of an ankus, bullhook, or chains while present near an elephant. In addition, this bill sets minimum space requirements for elephants housed at stationary facilities or kept or maintained on traveling display. To date, the only California zoo that houses elephants and meets the bill’s space requirements is the Oakland Zoo.
“I introduced this legislation because it is clear that elephants throughout our state are suffering,” says Assemblymember Lloyd Levine. “We can turn our backs and look away, or we can work together to provide them with better lives. We must find a way to give these elephants the level of care they deserve — not just in California, but nationwide.”
“AB 3027 is a progressive measure to address the most egregious training methods employed by elephant handlers, as well as animal welfare concerns facing elephants,” says Nicole Paquette, Director of Legal and Government Affairs for API. “We need a solution to this problem and California has stepped up to the plate for these animals. This is surely only the beginning for this type of legislation.”
Many American Zoo & Aquarium Association (AZA) facilities and companies such as Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus assert that captive elephants are crucial to conserving endangered elephants in the wild, though no captive bred elephant has ever been released to the wild. Donations to protect endangered wild elephants are similarly lacking — the St. Louis Zoo has donated $60,000 over three years to two countries with wild elephants yet the Los Angeles Zoo spends $114,000 a year to care for just one captive elephant.
The Animal Protection Institute (API) is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. API is a nationally recognized leader on elephant issues and the sponsor of AB 3027 in California; a similar bill, LB 1000, in Nebraska; and S 2457 in Massachusetts, which would ban wild and exotic animals from circuses and traveling shows. For more information, visit www.api4animals.org.
Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute, 916-447-3085 x205
Alex Traverso, Office of Assemblymember Lloyd Levine, 916-319-2624