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City Council votes to keep Billy the elephant at the L.A. Zoo

January 28, 2009 |  4:05 pm

Billy the elephant is staying put, and Bob Barker isn't happy about it. The City Council voted to finish a $42 million elephant exhibit and keep its lone pachyderm at the zoo, despite pleas by the

Billy the elephant will remain at the L.A. Zoo, the L.A. City Council decided today in an 11-4 vote. 

The decision means that construction on the zoo's Pachyderm Forest exhibit will continue -- and Billy will take up residence there upon the project's completion.  Our colleague Carla Hall at the L.A. Now blog has the details:

In the packed council chambers, the crowd was emotional and tense, cheering the speakers they approved and booing those they didn't. Opponents of the exhibit marshaled celebrities, including Cher, Lily Tomlin and Robert Culp, who called himself not an animal activist but a taxpayer who assailed the money going "to this shameless political boondoggle." Opponents believe the zoo's exhibit cannot fulfill the complex space and social needs of the world's largest land mammal.

Zoo supporters believe the exhibit is world-class. "No disrespect, but if you want to know about a concert, talk to Cher," zookeeper Joshua Sisk told council members. "If you want to know about the zoo, let's talk to professionals at the zoo."

During the hearing, Hall reports that 12,700 cards from citizens requesting that the exhibit move forward were presented to the council.

Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn. (GLAZA) president Connie Morgan said she didn't know what caused the council's about-face on this issue (the same group decided to suspend construction just last month), but is elated at the decision. "I hope it's because the true facts came out about the humane care of the elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo and the dedicated professionals who work with the animals at the zoo," she said.

Jason Jacobs, director of marketing and public relations at the zoo, says a construction contract will be brought before the Department of Public Works on Monday. If it's approved, work could resume fairly quickly on the Pachyderm Forest.

"I hope construction begins right away," Morgan said.

-- Lindsay Barnett

RELATED:
Jack Hanna announces his support for the L.A. Zoo's controversial elephant exhibit
Conservationist Daphne Sheldrick: Billy the elephant belongs in a sanctuary
Zookeepers to City Council: Let Billy the elephant stay at the zoo
Activists rally for the L.A. Zoo's Pachyderm Forest; Bob Barker donates to the opposition
L.A. City Council set to decide the fate of Billy the elephant

Photo: Bob Barker, who offered $1.5 million to relocate Billy to the PAWS sanctuary, and others (including Cher) react to the City Council's decision to keep the elephant at the zoo. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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