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Councilman says elephants and L.A. Zoo don't mix

October 21, 2008 |  5:03 pm

Billy the elephant at the L.A. ZooFor years debate has raged over the fate of the elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo. Similar debates have played out at zoos across the country. Now Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas has entered the fray.

Cardenas said Tuesday that he would ask the City Council to outlaw the keeping of elephants at the zoo. As The Times' Carla Hall writes, the proposal will complicate plans for a new elephant enclosure at the facility:

For the Los Angeles Zoo, a city agency, that's one more bump in the road -- which has been long and fraught with controversy -- to building its new $40-million elephant exhibit.

The zoo hopes to bring in Asian elephants to exhibit and breed. But if Cardenas' two motions regarding elephants were to pass, construction on the new zoo exhibit would halt. Cardenas said that the zoo has not yet begun building structures, but has spent $10 million to grade and prepare the land.

Zoo officials, who have planned their own afternoon news conference in front of the site, have said the project is 30% complete. 'First and foremost, this is a humanitarian effort,' said Cardenas, who now joins the ranks of animal welfare advocates who say it is cruel to keep the giant mammals in enclosures that may measure a few acres but don't allow them to roam for miles as they do in the wild.

With their massive weight, many zoo elephants also suffer severe and chronic foot and joint ailments. (Over the years. zoos have changed the surfaces the animals stand on to try to alleviate those problems.)

See Carla Hall's report on the L.A. zoo elephants. And check out the video report too.

-- Steve Padilla

Photo: An elephant at the Los Angeles Zoo in 2006. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

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