A motion, introduced by Councilman Paul Koretz in mid-April and seconded by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, calls for the Los Angeles Zoo to immediately cease efforts to use Billy to breed baby elephants for captivity in other zoos, ensure compliance with a court order to exercise Billy daily, create an animal welfare zoo oversight committee to advise the mayor and lawmakers, and most importantly to free Billy to a sanctuary that will provide the elephant with more land to roam and other elephants with whom he can socialize.
“Elephants need miles of habitat to roam, eat, and socialize,” said Kiersten Cluster, Co-Chair of Elephant Guardians, an organization formed a year ago to close the elephant exhibit at the LA Zoo.
“Elephants can walk up to 50 miles a day in the wild and lead rich emotional lives. When they are confined virtually alone on an acre of land in a zoo, they suffer poor health and profound emotional deprivation. I call this trauma.”
Between 2011 and 2014, the LA Zoo tried unsuccessfully to collect semen from Billy, a 12,000-pound virgin, to ship to another zoo for breeding purposes. The zookeeper’s notes, obtained in a Public Records Act request, indicate efforts to masturbate Billy never produced enough semen: Semen Collection Billy
Gay Bradshaw, the Executive Director of The Kerulos Center, described the breeding program as extremely invasive. “This breeding program must be stopped forever because it causes gross indignities and trauma to Billy – and if the breeding is successful, it will only perpetuate the pain and agony of captive life for more elephants.”
Some argue confining elephants to zoos is better than leaving them in the wild, where they are vulnerable to ruthless poachers who kill elephants for their ivory tusks. The two issues are unrelated. The answer to poaching, say animal rights advocates, is not to kidnap or isolate elephants in zoos to amuse a crowd, but to crack down, as the state of California has, on illegal ivory sales. Moreover, the money spent keeping zoos open could be better used to sustain natural habitats for many endangered species.