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New Elephant Facility Put on Hold at Los Angeles Zoo

help elephants in zoos

Billy, the zoo’s lone elephant, takes a dip as handler Vicky Guarnett tries to get his attention. On Monday, the City Council’s budget and finance committee met and discussed whether the zoo project should be shut down.  Project is now on hold.

Wading elephant at the L.A. Zoo

A city councilman and animal welfare advocates worry the 3.6-acre ‘Pachyderm Forest’ won’t provide enough space and are concerned about overall care. Zoo officials say they’re mimicking the wild.

Background

We are very close to freeing Billy and stopping the practice of keeping elephants at L.A. Zoo.

Like other urban zoos across the country, L.A. Zoo is unable to provide the vast acreage needed by elephants, who can walk tens of miles a day in the wild and have home ranges of 120 square miles or more. Yet the Zoo is embarking on a 3.5-acre elephant exhibit renovation at a cost to taxpayers of $42 million that still will not provide the space elephants need. Even worse, this small amount of space is subdivided into four yards, and the planned barn can hold as many as 10 elephants. (The Zoo may initially hold fewer elephants but plans to breed.)

However, new information was brought to light that was not presented to the L.A. City Council when they voted in 2006 to approve funding for the exhibit renovation.

Council members were not aware of the zoo¹s tragic record of thirteen dead elephants since 1975 or the fact that more than half of those elephants did not live to age 20. An elephant¹s natural lifespan is 60 to 70 years.

They also were not provided the entire fiscal picture, including the projected yearly cost of maintaining elephants at L.A. Zoo. If the zoo were to hold eight elephants, it would cost the already cash-strapped City of L.A. about $1 million per year just to care for them.

Based on the above, Councilmember Tony Cardenas presented a motion in October that would stop the L.A. Zoo¹s elephant exhibit renovation and send its only elephant, Billy, to a sanctuary.

The motion was heard by the full L.A. City Council on November 19th, and now goes to the Budget & Finance Committee for further discussion in the first week of December. It will then return to the full council that same week for a final vote.

More than ever, we need your help to rescue Billy, who has been living in solitary confinement at L.A. Zoo for more than two years. Elephants are highly social animals, including the males, making Billy¹s confinement all that more inhumane. Billy displays zoochotic behavior, repetitively bobbing his head up and down, a result of stress and boredom. This behavior is not seen in wild elephants.

Watch a video on Billy and the L.A. Zoo. For more information on how you can help Billy, please see below.

TARA AND GITA

The most recent deaths at L.A. Zoo include 39-year-old Tara, an African elephant who died in 2004. Keepers found her down on the ground one morning and unable to get up due to severe arthritis. She died shortly thereafter.

Similarly, keepers found 48-year-old Gita down one morning, and she died later that day. She, too, had suffered from advanced arthritis, as revealed in her necropsy (her body was riddled with the disease). IDA exposed the terrible failure of Zoo personnel to take action after observing Gita down early during the night prior to her death. It was later determined that Gita may have needlessly and painfully suffered for as long as 12 to 17 hours before getting veterinary attention. She had also suffered chronic foot infections throughout her life, which eventually led to the partial amputation of one toe in September 2005. IDA requested an USDA investigation into Tara and Gita¹s deaths, the results of which are still pending after two years.

RUBY

After years of intense campaigning by IDA, Ruby made an historic journey in May 2006 from her tiny, off-exhibit enclosure at L.A. Zoo, where she was held alone, to her new home at the PAWS Sanctuary in Northern California. Ruby is thriving on more than 70 acres of rolling, grassy hills and happily shares the company of other African elephants!

What You Can Do

– Please keep all communications concise and polite. We are trying to influence city officials to support our position, and negativity will not get us the votes we need. Please don’t give anyone an excuse to vote against this important issue!

– If you are a Los Angeles resident, please write and call city council members and express your strong opposition to spending millions of dollars of your taxpayer money on an inadequate elephant exhibit at L.A. Zoo. Urge him or her to help send Billy to a sanctuary and to close the Zoo¹s elephant exhibit. Click here to locate your City Council member online. You can also dial 311 within the City of Los Angeles, or call 213-473-3231 from the Greater Los Angeles area.

– Please write to L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa at mayor@lacity.org thanking him for the great strides the city has made toward becoming more humane. Ask that he reject spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money on an inadequate elephant exhibit at L.A. Zoo. Urge him to send Billy to a sanctuary and to close the Zoo¹s elephant exhibit.

CONTACTS:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Los Angeles City Hall
200 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: 213-978-0600 Fax: 213-978-0750
Email: mayor@lacity.org

District 1 – Ed Reyes
Phone: 213-473-7001 Fax: 213-485-8907
Email: councilmember.reyes@lacity.org

District 2 – Wendy Greuel
Phone: 213-473-7002 Fax: 213-680-7895
Email: councilmember.greuel@lacity.org

District 3 – Dennis P. Zine
Phone: 213-473-7003
Email: councilmember.zine@lacity.org

District 4 – Tom LaBonge
Phone: 213-473-7004 Fax: 213-624-7810
Email: councilmember.labonge@lacity.org

District 5 – Jack Weiss
Phone: 213-473-7005 Fax: 213-978-2250
Email: councilmember.weiss@lacity.org

District 6 – Tony Cardenas
Phone: 213-473-7006 Fax: 213-847-0549
Email: councilmember.cardenas@lacity.org

District 7 – Richard Alarcon
Phone: 213-473-7007 Fax: 213-847-0707
use contact form at http://www.lacity.org/council/cd7/contact.htm

District 8 – Bernard Parks
Phone: 213-473-7008 Fax: 213-485-7683
Email: councilmember.parks@lacity.org

District 9 – Jan Perry
Phone: 213-473-7009 Fax: 213-473-5946
Email: jan.perry@lacity.org

District 10 – Herb J. Wesson, Jr.
Phone: 213-473-7010 Fax: 213-485-9829
Email: councilmember.wesson@lacity.org

District 11 – Bill Rosendahl
Phone: 213-473-7011 Fax: 213-473-6926
Email: councilmember.rosendahl@lacity.org

District 12 – Greig Smith
Phone: 213-473-7012 Fax: 213-473-6925
Email: councilmember.smith@lacity.org

District 13 – Eric Garcetti
Phone: 213-473-7013 Fax: 213-613-0819
Email: councilmember.garcetti@lacity.org

District 14 – Jose Huizar
Phone: 213-473-7014 Fax: 213-847-0680
Email: councilmember.huizar@lacity.org

District 15 – Janice Hahn
Phone: 213-473-7015 Fax: 213-626-5431
Email: councilmember.hahn@lacity.org

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December 4, 2008 Posted by | animals, Just One More Pet, Political Change, Stop Animal Cruelty, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

25% of Wild Mammal Species Are Imperiled

      

BARCELONA, Oct. 6 — At least a quarter of the world’s wild mammal species are at risk of extinction, according to a comprehensive global survey released here Monday.

The new assessment — which took 1,700 experts in 130 countries five years to complete — paints “a bleak picture,” leaders of the project wrote in a paper being published in the journal Science. The overview, made public at the quadrennial World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), covers all 5,487 wild species identified since 1500. It is the most thorough tally of land and marine mammals since 1996.

“Mammals are definitely declining, and the driving factors are habitat destruction and over-harvesting,” said Jan Schipper, the paper’s lead writer and the IUCN’s global mammals assessment coordinator. The researchers concluded that 25 percent of the mammal species for which they had sufficient data are threatened with extinction, but Schipper added that the figure could be as high as 36 percent because information on some species is so scarce.

Land and marine mammals face different threats, the scientists said, and large mammals are more vulnerable than small ones. For land species, habitat loss and hunting represent the greatest danger, while marine mammals are more threatened by unintentional killing by pollution, ship strikes and being caught in fishing nets.

While large species such as primates (including the Sumatran orangutan and red colobus monkeys in Africa) and ungulates (hoofed animals such as Africa’s Dama gazelle and the Malaysian tapir) may seem more physically imposing, the researchers wrote that these animals are more imperiled than smaller creatures such as rodents and bats because they “tend to have lower population densities, slower life histories, and larger home ranges, and are more likely to be hunted.”

Primates face some of the most intense pressures: According to the survey, 79 percent of primates in South and Southeast Asia are facing extinction.

Conservation International President Russell A. Mittermeier, one of the paper’s writers and a primate specialist, said animals in the region are being hit with “a triple whammy.”

“It’s not that surprising, given the high population pressures, the level of habitat destruction, and the fairly extreme hunting of primates for food and medicinal purposes,” he said in an interview. He added that some areas in Vietnam and Cambodia are facing “an empty forest syndrome,” as even once-populous species such as the crab-eating macaque, or temple monkey, are “actually getting vacuumed out of some areas where it was common.

In some cases, the scientists have a precise sense of how imperiled a species has become: There are 19 Hainan gibbons left in the wild on the island off China’s southeast coast, Mittermeier said, which actually counts as progress because there used to be just a dozen.

With others, including the beaked whale and the jaguar, researchers have a much vaguer idea of their numbers despite technological advances — such as satellite and radio tagging, camera tracking and satellite-based GPS (global positioning system) mapping. The authors of the assessment wrote that most land mammals occupy “areas smaller than the United Kingdom,” while “the range of most marine mammals is smaller than one-fifth of the Indian Ocean.”

The report on mammals came on the same day that the IUCN updated its “Red List” — a separate periodic survey of nearly 45,000 species of plants and animals — and concluded that 32 percent are threatened with extinction. Its scientists added 20 of the world’s 161 species of grouper to the list of those at risk of extinction, along with several tarantula species.

Jonathan Baillie, who directs conservation programs at the Zoological Society of London, said: “It’s a continual decline in all cases.”

Not all of the news was grim yesterday: IUCN officials said that the La Palma giant lizard, believed to be extinct for 500 years, was rediscovered last year in the Canary Islands and is now considered critically endangered.

The writers of the mammals assessment said the observed declines are not inevitable. “At least 5 percent of currently threatened species have stable or increasing populations,” they wrote, “which indicates that they are recovering from past threats.”

Said Mittermeier: “It comes down to protecting habitats effectively, through protected areas, and preventing hunting and other forms of exploitation.” As one example of how conservation can be effective, he noted that in areas where scientific researchers work, animals stand a much better chance of surviving. “Where you have a research presence, it’s as good or better than a guard force,” he said.

Schipper offered the model of the U.S. effort to bring back the black-footed ferret, which was essentially extinct on the North American prairie as of 1996. “Now it’s endangered, which, in this case, is a huge improvement,” he said. “When governments and scientists commit resources to a project, many species can be recovered.”

Monday’s reports come as researchers have been documenting effects of human-generated greenhouse gases. In a paper published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute found that ocean acidification spurred by carbon emissions will cause sound to travel farther underwater, because increasingly acidic seawater absorbs less low- and mid-frequency sound.

By 2050, the researchers predicted, sounds could travel as much as 70 percent farther in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and other areas, which may improve marine mammals’ ability to communicate but also increase background noise, which could prove disorienting.

“We understand the chemistry of the ocean is changing. The biological implications of that we really don’t know,” said ocean chemist Keith Hester, the lead writer. “The magnitude to which sound absorption will change, based mainly on human contribution, is really astounding.”

By Juliet Elperin, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, October 7, 2008; Page A13

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October 9, 2008 Posted by | Just One More Pet, Pets, Political Change, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments