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


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)

Comments () | Archives (6)

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Regarding the photo caption, Boo is tied to the tree nearby, not walking.

All three elephants should have been confiscated and kept together. To do otherwise is to deny the highly social nature of these creatures who form strong emotional bonds with one another. They should all be taken to The Elephant Sanctuary in TN, not to a zoo. Elephants don't thrive in circuses or zoos. They should never be held in confined captivity. To do so is to consign them to an early death. The sanctuary has an expert consulting vet who has co-authored a definitive veterinary textbook on elephants. She would do a superior job of planning these elephants' care. Please USDA, reconsider and let these three survivors go to a truly better life where they will at least have the chance at a normal elephant lifespan. They deserve the best life we can give them at this point.

They've been taken to the San Diego Zoo. This is an outrage! They only have 2.4 acres at SDZ. The USDA has cited this zoo for inadequate vet care and neglect. On what planet does their rap sheet qualify them as the best place for Jewel and Tina? Mars? This whole transfer stinks to high Heaven!

Obviously (Ele, LottieLala, and Elefan) you have not been to the World Famous San Diego Zoo. It is not just a zoo and by no means is it a circus. The new elephant area is a 45 million dollar, state of the art facility where the already housed elephants are pampered better than you and I will ever be. These elephants get fed the most fresh produce, have daily checkups, have other elephants to form their close bonds with, and have pedicures performed on their feet each week to make sure they are healthy and strong for getting around their open and enriched enclosures. This life is a better life then many kids today have as they sit in front of the TV eating chips all day and playing video games.

I do agree that the three elephants should have been moved together due to the fact the elephants pretty much bond for life.

What I would like to know is if there any plans to send Boo, the other elephant, to another facility as well (or the SD Zoo), considering the heath conditions and that elephants are social and need their other elephants to bond with?

I'm not sure WHY the USDA allowed Davenport to keep an elephant... considering the lack of care that he's extend to all three over the years. Tina and Jewel have health issues... that didn't happen overnight. Their body condition was less than ideal for an adult elephant. I'm happy to know that they have finally been rescued ... they should have been rescued long ago.

Queenie (aka Boo) needs to be rescued too before she winds up like Tina and Jewel. And why does Davenport CHAIN her to a tree. And, how does Davenport plan to support his 'pet' elephant?

Although it's not an ideal situation for elephants, I applaud the San Diego Zoo for allowing Tina and Jewel to receive much needed health care there. This may be temporary... when they've recovered, perhaps they will become residents of The Elephant Sanctuary.

So they finally got Queenie (aka Boo) away from these nuts. Well, I'll admit that The San Antonio Zoo is not the best place in the world, but it is a heck of a lot better than being in the hands of those monsters. I know they are monsters, I saw it firsthand, and nothing short of maximum security prison for the rest of their pitiful lives will be good enough punishment as far as I'm concerned.


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