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San Diego Zoo to loan two Asian elephants to Los Angeles Zoo for new exhibit


The San Diego Zoo is loaning two female Asian elephants to the Los Angeles Zoo for its new $42-million Elephants of Asia exhibit set to open in mid-December, officials at the two zoos announced Friday.

The two elephants, Jewel and Tina, have been at the San Diego Zoo for 14 months since being removed from a Texas location where the owner used them as circus performers. The move was ordered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the elephants' welfare.

In San Diego, the elephants, estimated to be in their mid-40s, have gained weight and had medical care. Jewel was in particularly bad shape when she arrived, officials said.

Jewel has gained 1,100 pounds, twice had complex dental surgery and received care for her abscessed feet, a common malady among aging elephants.

Both now are ready for a new home, said Jeff Andrews, elephant curator for the San Diego Zoo and the zoo's Safari Park. The loan is open-ended, with no certain date for the elephants to return to San Diego.

Several elephant keepers from San Diego, including Andrews, will work with the Los Angeles Zoo to ensure a continuity of care for the two -- including the "protected contact system" in which the animals are never struck and keepers keep a safe distance, usually behind a metal fence.

Elephants and their care have been a cause of political discord and litigation in Los Angeles, where the zoo, in effect, is run as a city department, with oversight by elected officials. In San Diego, the zoo is a private nonprofit organization that leases city-owned land in Balboa Park and has its own board of directors.

For security reasons, the date of the move is not being revealed. Jewel and Tina will join a male elephant named Billy at the Los Angeles Zoo.

The two zoos have cooperated in several projects in recent years, including efforts to save the California condor and Peninsular pronghorn from extinction. 

Once Jewel and Tina leave, the San Diego Zoo will have seven elephants at the zoo's Elephant Odyssey exhibit and 16 more at Safari Park (formerly the Wild Animal Park).

The Elephants of Asia exhibit is meant to educate zoo visitors about the connection between elephants and the native cultures of Thailand, India, China and Cambodia, according to Los Angeles Zoo officials.

Because elephants are social creatures, and Tina and Jewel appear to have a bond, it was thought best to keep them together. Billy might also benefit from contact with other elephants, officials said.

"What we're doing is in the best interests of Tina and Jewel, and Billy," said Andrews.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Jewel, left, and Tina, Asian elephants at the San Diego Zoo. Credit: San Diego Zoo.

Comments () | Archives (25)

Whoo hoo!
This is excellent. These two girls who have been through so much will get the best of care in what will be one of the best new elephant exhibits is the world- at the LA Zoo.
San Diego continues to show their commitment to outstanding elephant care by doing what is best for Tina and Jewel.
If you haven't been by the Zoo to check out how the exhibit is shaping up- you must. I was there last week at it looks amazing. And just take a peep at Billy. He's looking fantastic!
Way to go LA!

This is one of the best things that could happen for the city of LA. The city of Los Angeles, the inner city community especially, has really been blessed with 2 larger than life gifts. Thank you San Diego Zoo and Los Angeles Zoo for creating an amazing opportunity for families to enjoy for many years to come. Thanks to efforts like this I grew up learning to love animals and nature. I hope these beautiful love-able creatures continue to touch the hearts of everyone they meet at the Los Angeles Zoo.

I advocated for the removal of Jewel and Tina from the so called circus in Texas where another elephant is still being kept by the same circus owner. We are working to get that elephant out as well. Jewel and Tina we hoped would be sent to either the elephant sanctuary in Tennessee or California where they belong. Instead they were sent to the San Diego Zoo, and as we all know, zoos are the last place where elephants should be. Now they are being "loaned" (how can a living being be "loaned!?) to the LA Zoo. The LA Zoo? They have one of the worst records in the country for housing elephants and have already lost over 20 of these magnificent creatures long before their normal life span. Just because they've wasted 42 million dollars of tax payer money to expand the elephant enclosure does not mean it is by any means suitable for 3 elephants. True, perhaps now Billy the lone elephant at the LA Zoo will now have company, but his health is very bad as is his mental state. So now we will have 3 elephants at one of the worst zoos in the country. We're worked tirelessly to get the LA Zoo to shut down it's elephant exhibit and send Billy to a sanctuary and instead now there will be 3 who will slowly die due to lack of space, the inability to roam tens of miles a day as they do naturally, and the inability to live in a large group of elephants. These are highly intelligent and social beings who do not belong in any zoo. Our mayor lied when he promised during his campaign to free Billy. I am ashamed of our city, the zoos, and the politicians who don't care about anything but making a buck off the backs of animals. We will be out in force protesting at the LA Zoo, only now we will be trying to free three amazing sentient beings who deserve much better instead of one. I am beyond disgusted and heart broken.

It will be a Beautiful new exhibit!

Well we can see that the LA Zoo PR machine has spontaneously weighed in on how wonderful this is. I agree with Madeline's post. These beautiful intelligent creatures are no better off in the LA Zoo than the circus they were rescued from. I'm betting this loan will become permanent. What a shame that the elephants were not placed in the sanctuary.

These elephants belong in a sanctuary, not the LA Zoo which has a bad record with elephants. Let's retire these three elephants away from the Los Angeles Zoo and into a good sanctuary!

@Madeline: First of all, get your facts straight. You are right that elephants have died at the LA Zoo, and by the way have only been 14 and not "over 20", but last I checked animals are not immortals... I've heard IDA say that elephants could live to 70 years of age, but that doesn't mean all elephants live to 70. Same with humans, which could live to 120, but that doesn't mean that all humans HAVE to live to 120 years of age... Also, what "normal lifespan" are you referring to? Because all I've seen is that elephants live to their 40's both in zoos and in the wild. Anti-LA Zoo activist always say that elephants walk thousands of miles in the wild, but you do know why they walk that much right?...in search of food and water...which is readily available in zoos. And about wasting 42 million...you do realize that LA citizens voted to use that money for the zoo right?

Anyways...I'm really excited for Billy because he'll finally have some friends!

Some people do not want there to be zoos at all, and elephants are the first targets. These people will exaggerate the problems that zoos have and they'll malign the good people who devote their lives to the care of these animals. Sure, ideally, all animals would be out in the wild enjoying themselves. But the flip side of that is that human impact has obviously been negative in elephants' native lands. So until the developing world learns how to manage themselves better, conservation projects like this will continue to be important for the survival of animals and the education of people.

The anti-zoo crowd feels they are morally superior to the rest of you, and feel that they are entitled to stretch the truth for what they feel is right. Remember that when they disturb your family's day at the zoo.

The Los Angeles Zoo has come a loooooong way. I applaud the changes they have made to improve the well being of the animals in their collection as well as all the conservation efforts they participate in. My whole family will be out for the opening of the Elephants of Asia exhibit; showing our support for the LA Zoo and the dedicated staff they have working there. Kudos to SD Zoo and LA for this great collaborative effort.

Stace- damn straight I'm part of an LA Zoo PR machine! I've been a member for years and my children grew up visiting the Zoo. They loved their summers at ZooCamp and now take their kids to the excellent California Condor room that recently opened. They grew up into people who truly care for wildlife and want to do something about it. Not fanatics who spread lies. I never met a person working at that Zoo who wasn't 100% committed to the welfare of the animals, and education of the public. My grandkids thank you for helping get Tara and Jewel to the Zoo, where they can see and appreciate them. Not hidden away in some so called 'sanctuary' where the care isn't as good and no education happens.

This is wonderful news! I have been to the L.A. Zoo lately and walked the long walk around the new habitat site. It looks like it will be an awesome exhibit, and I'm so glad that Billy will have companions. I couldn't be happier for him and can't wait to bring my kids to the exhibit when it opens.

I have been worried that the loud voices of a misguided minority would ruin things for everyone, but it looks like common sense has prevailed!

It all comes down to this: One living thing should not own or incarcerate another. That's known as bondage/slavery. But as long as we meet our own needs for curiosity, the fact that these poor elephants and other animals have been torn away from their families and their natural habitat doesn't really matter, does it? Its all about making sure we're entertained...

The LA Zoo has no business incarcerating these two elephants who should have been sent to a sanctuary. In addition, a judge should have granted an injunction to prohibit anymore elephants from being imported to the zoo until the trial for Aaron Leider's lawsuit could take place. But, as usual, the judges cow-tow to the powerful special interest groups (zoos)and perpetuate the misery of these severely confined creatures. Elephants don't belong in zoos. Their fate in such places includes being driven insane and killed by captivity-related illnesses caused by their living conditions. Zoos, local governments, courts and the USDA all conspire to keep these long-suffering animals in deadly "elephant mortuaries" called zoo exhibits. The public should demand an end to this modern day form of slavery and vote officials out of office who participate in this unholy collusion.

As a parent who brings his 2 kids to the Los Angeles Zoo, my only complaint is dealing with the rude aggressive protesters we encountered some time back on this same issue. One even tried to put a sticker on my child without my consent. These people should not be allowed near the place! We want to come enjoy a nice day at the zoo, not be taunted by these people. Go protest somewhere else!

Elephants are wonderful, magnificent creatures...I hope that the three, Billy, Tina and Jewel have a happy, long life and remain life long democrats ;-)

While there are a couple of people making really good comments (I belive you have "some" inkling about what you are talking about). Elephants have never belonged in zoos, circuses, and/or private "reserves". Folks, I like to teach my own children about this (and many other animals) but really - there are many many many very well written books about animals - GO TEACH THEM THAT WAY! Just because you and your children can "see" them in a zoo means absolutely NOTHING! Elephants are one the the worst treated "outside" of their own homes. AND YES!, I know that their own homes are being voilated (and yes they stampeed towns in south africa) - but you have to at least wonder why - look at the population movements, harvesting, ect. etc., - there is so much much more to learn............

Isn't killing 14 elephants enough? The "improved" new confinement has only 3.5 acres, while an elephant must have freedom to roam hundred of miles a day. 3.5 acres is considered to be too small to make a Dog Park, but big enough for elephants? City of Angels should change its name because there’s nothing angelic about our city’s treatment of the animals.

Sending elephants to the same LA Zoo that killed so many already -- and people are happy about it? The tragic and repeated history of LA Zoo's elephants is preventable serious medical problems and early death.

Putting up trees the humans think are pretty won't make the space any larger, and elephants need space. You might keep your head in the sand for your afternoon visit, but Tina, Jewel and Billy will suffer their (shortened) lifetimes in inhumane, inappropriate conditions for an elephant. Poor Jewel already had foot abcesses (more common among zoo elephants), and now she will be in a new too-small environment that subjects her to more of the same.

Telling your kids that elephants in zoos are a good thing, or that your kids are seeing something "natural" when they see a huge animal trapped in too-small confinement, is a parent being untruthful to the child.

Better to speak the truth to your children, and teach them compassion -- not to falsify the facts and admire cruelty.

Ok... someone in an earlier post about the necessity for zoos used as a rationale, "...until the developing world learns how to manage themselves better..," as if it were the fault of conitinents like Africa and Asia that large species of wildlife were disappearing off the face of the planet. The continued extistence of some of these species became an issue as a direct result of colonial expansion. The figure that is the great game hunter is not a creation of these cultures, but rather an invention created and perpetuated by European and later cultural imperialist. Thanks to great game hunters and the ivory trade the size of your average African elephant is about half the size of what they were around the late 1800's. The same game goes for poaching and other large species. The indigineous peoples of these places for many centuries lived in harmony with many of these animals and thanks to imperialist greed then and the working of globalism now many of these same animals and peoples must compete for diminishing natural resources. However, to suggest that this is some mess that they are responsible for and which the first world must now come and clean up is absolutely ridiculoous.

I agree, elephants should not be subjected to the horrible conditions that zoos present. Elephants should be free so they can be poached by starving tribesman, or preyed upon by Lions, or starve from lack of food or water. They should have to walk 20 to 30 miles a day so they can find food or water. Granted they do get to quote, "Live a Free life in the Wild". Well I hate to break it to you, but these elephants have know idea what the wild is! They have been used to being cared for by their keepers, they are couch potatoes because they are spoiled. What would be the difference between a sanctuary and a new exhibit at LA? Oh the sanctuary is a sanctuary and a Zoo is Death? A sanctuary would care for the same way as LA will. What, you think the Keepers work for the Zoo so they can mistreat and torture them? These tweo Elephants are in far better shape than they were and will thrive in their new home. I love the compassion of all the detractors to this move, better they die free than be cared for in a zoo. But if they have to be in captivity, it should be at a sanctuary, Why? Oh because they will give them far better care than a zoo. Right! They didn't go to a sanctuary in the first place because one of them needed a lot of dental surgery. You think the Sanctuaries wanted to foot the bill for that? So let's let the Zoos take on the expense and get them in good health, but oh yea, Zoo's suck! Please!

The L.A. zoo will provide a wonderful, beautiful home (a sanctuary, if you will) for these animals, and at the same time allow millions of people of all ages to be inspired by them.

I used to be an opponent of animals in zoos (and sanctuaries, which are just zoos by a different name) until I became educated about what zoos do-- education, conservation, inspiration. Sanctuaries do good work but are largely underfunded and overcrowded, do not allow for breeding of endangered species, are usually not open to the public and thus not educational venues, etc. I support sanctuaries for the good they do in caring for animals with no other option.

Tina and Jewel, fortunately for them and for us Angelenos, were provided with an option. Hooray for L.A.!

I suspect that "Boston" is really a zoo worker because everyone in their right mind knows that Billy is severely suffering from serious neglect, loneliness, signs of early arthritis and more from his impoverished living conditions at the L.A. Zoo. The new habitat set to open soon will not be much better because elephants need to roam an average of 60-70 miles a day and the new exhibit is only a total of about six acres.

Poor Billy, and poor Tina and Jewel. I only hope these beautiful, magnificent, highly-intellectual creatures get to go to an elephant sanctuary instead of dying at the L.A. Zoo.

"What we're doing is in the best interests of Tina and Jewel, and Billy," said Andrews.--However, this is not for the best welfare of these elephants, but for the sole interest of the zoo. If they were doing what was best for them, these elephants would have never set foot in a zoo and would be roaming freely in a beautiful herd.

We love elephants, we love the L.A. Zoo.

With so many animals in dire conditions over the world, I wish these activists would turn their attention to them. Read up on the status of Asian elephants in Thailand and India, and see if you aren't moved to redirect your anti-zoo ire toward addressing the real elephant killers -- habitat destruction, poaching, and the ivory trade.

You can't justify cruelty to elephants in zoos by citing cruelty in Asia and Africa. Humans are threatening them everywhere; in the wild and in captivity. It must stop. You like to go to the zoo but you don't think about what it means for the animals. We selfishly want to be entertained and the cost is a slow and agonizing death, driving them insane and causing a whole host of physical ailments that cause their premature death as a result of brutality and severe confinement. How would you like to be locked in a closet your whole life. That is what we're doing to these elephants. It is cruel and in this day and age it is inexcusable.

This crisis facing Asian elephants is of course not confined to India. Elephant Family is about to embark on a corridor project in Thailand with the Elephant Conservation Network, while in Indonesia and Malaysia we are already working with local partners on a variety of measures to reduce conflict between humans and elephants, working with local communities to regard elephants as an asset not a threat, and to find solutions that enable peaceful co-existence.


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