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Texas man can keep one elephant, not three; chooses his Boo

August 21, 2009 |  4:42 pm


It's like "Sophie's Choice," except with pachyderms. A man in East Texas gave up his battle with regulators who claimed he was not caring properly for his three elephants: Boo, Jewel and Tina. So he agreed to pay a few thousand dollars in fines and send Jewel and Tina to a zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Willie Davenport, 24, of Leggett, who comes from a family involved in circuses, has denied mistreating the elephants named Boo, Jewel and Tina.

But on Thursday, Davenport gave up 40-year-old Jewel and 39-year-old Tina, both Asian elephants, to end his fight with regulators. He will keep Boo, who has been with his family since the 1960s.

Davenport also agreed to pay a $3,000 fine in exchange for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropping complaints against him for failing to have proper purchasing permits for Jewel and Tina. Davenport said he bought the animals for $150,000 from a retiring elephant trainer in Florida in 2006.

Both elephants were deemed to be dangerously underweight, and U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors had filed documents to seize Jewel because of chronic weight loss and alleged inadequate veterinary care.

USDA spokesman Dave Sacks said Jewel and Tina would be taken to a zoo.

"I am sad. This is not just my loss, but East Texas is losing their elephants. They have touched a lot of people," Davenport said. "This is their home."

An animal rescue group, In Defense of Animals, had complained to federal authorities about Davenport and sought to have all three elephants removed from his barn.

Last Friday a breeder in Texas was arrested when it was discovered that 76 Arabian horses were emaciated.

Update: Saturday Jewel and Tina were delivered to the San Diego Zoo.

-- Tony Pierce

In a photo taken Aug. 17, 2009, Willie Davenport, 24, pets Jewel, a 44-year-old Asian elephant, as Boo, 54, walks nearby in Leggett, Texas. (AP Photo / Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson)

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