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Jack Hanna announces his support for the L.A. Zoo's controversial elephant exhibit

January 6, 2009 |  5:36 pm

Billy, the L.A. Zoo's only elephant

Celebrity zookeeper Jack Hanna weighed in today on the hot topic of Billy, the sole elephant resident at the L.A. Zoo.  In a letter to the L.A. City Council, Hanna pledged his support to the controversial "Pachyderm Forest" project, which will cost $42 million if completed as originally planned.

There's been a great deal of debate over Billy's living arrangements.  As our colleague Carla Hall reported last month, construction on the Pachyderm Forest has been halted over concerns not just over cost but also Billy's well-being:

"Our zoo is trying to do the best job they can with the real estate they have and the budget they have," said Councilman Tony Cardenas, who conceived the motion to stop construction of the exhibit and move Billy to a sanctuary. "Elephants don't fit in zoos; they have ailments they don't get out in the wild. Whether it's an acre or three to four acres, it's inadequate."

Hanna writes about a tour he took of the Pachyderm Forest construction site last month:

"What I [found] was a project taking shape that will set a new standard for the care of elephants at zoos, providing a home that will be even larger than what Asian elephants enjoy at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.  Not only will Billy and any future residents have a huge amount of space in which to roam, they will continue to enjoy 24-hour monitoring, state-of-the-art medical care, love, nurturing and a level of attention that ranch-like sanctuaries cannot provide.

"My conclusion: the Pachyderm Forest will be a model for humane elephant care that will educate generations to come on the threats Asian elephants face in the wild."

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

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