Thursday, June 7, 2007

A prayer for Maggie

Many know that I have become quite impassioned about the welfare of captive elephants. I am a big, BIG supporter of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee that exists to take in sick, old, and needy elephants from zoos and circuses.

One elephant that the animal welfare community has been keeping its eye on is Maggie, a 25 year old African elephant that has been in poor health and languishing alone in the Alaska Zoo for years. My personal opinion is that very, very few zoos have the space requirements needed to house an elephant exhibit. (I won't even get into circuses--shudder). Elephants can only adapt so far to cold climates, so zoos in northern, colder climates keep elephants in barns for months on end in the winter, many times chained. No matter how trainable they may seem, elephants are NOT domesticated. Elephants are not cows, they need to move. Elephants in the wild walk between 12-30 miles a day, every day. The majority of elephants in captivity need to be put down at an early age due to debilitating arthritis and foot, nail and bone infections that don't heal. This is caused by lack of exercise and a too hard substrate for them to stand on.

Photo of Maggie taken recently. Note her sunken cheeks. This does not look like a healthy happy elephant to me.



There has been a tug of war for years between the animal welfare community and the Alaska Zoo regarding Maggie. The Zoo obviously thought she was fine, basically wanted people to butt out of their business and wanted her to stay. (They were even thinking of getting a treadmill for her!!) But, Maggie seems to have lost an awful lot of weight recently and in the past few weeks she has been laying on her side and then not been able to get up. They had to call in the fire department to work with getting her back on her feet. (An elephant cannot lay on its side for very long due to its own weight that can crush internal organs.)

The Alaska Zoo board finally agreed this week to relocate Maggie. I am REALLY hoping it is not too late. She may go to another zoo, or to a sanctuary. While I would love her to go to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, I think the trip from Alaska would prove to be too much for her.

So I'm asking everyone who reads this blog to please say a prayer for Maggie. If you don't believe in prayer, please send positive thoughts her way. Tell her to not give up and to hold on a little longer. I pray there are better and brighter days ahead for her.




Keep the faith Maggie!

One thing I want to add. I think the VAST, VAST majority of folks working IN zoos really DO care for the animals they are charged to look after. (No one I know gets rich working at a zoo.)But when you get big institutions involved (the American Zoological Association), they always seem very quick to defend themselves and the practices they have been using for years. They also seem to dismiss new research and those who question their practices as uneducated, crazy animal activists. I think there is a new era coming in captive elephant management that the more progressive zoos are tuning into. The Philadelphia Zoo, the Detroit Zoo, and the LA Zoo have all closed their elephant exhibits believing they could not ethically keep these animals because of either lack of space or the cold climate. What does the AZA do when this happens. Well, with the Detroit Zoo, they threatened to take away their accreditation if they decided to close the elephant exhibit. After the head of the Detroit Zoo made the decision to close their elephant exhibit....he resigned. Update: I was wrong, Ron Kagan, the head of the Detroit Zoo did not resign after making the courageous decision to close the elephant exhibit. As of the fall of 2006, he was still the Director. (I needed to double check that, as it is amazing how fast information gets thrown around on the internet and I didn't want to be on of those people giving out false information.)

5 comments:

cat59 said...

This is just heartbreaking! Those stupid, selfish idiots!! I hope she goes somewhere she can get the care she needs and not to another zoo. Can we write to anyone to advocate on behalf of Maggie?

possumlady said...

Here is contact information for the Alaska Zoo.

4731 O'Malley Road
Anchorage, AK 99507

The only email address I could find that is listed under "Contact us" is: klarson@alaskazoo.org

KGMom said...

Possumlady--I applaud your support of "free-range" elephants (my term). I have a rather long story to tell you about this.
I teach college English & every year I assign students to read an article I choose, then summarize & react to it.
One year I chose the story about the elephants in the Chicago zoo, one of whom had died--Peaches--and how the other two were being moved.
One student did some research & found out about the Elephant Sanctuary & wrote about it.
I was so taken, that I looked up the Sanctuary, and have been supporting it with contributions since.
I LOVE ELEPHANTS, and think we humans are too too cruel by enslaving them. They are such marvelous beasts--so caring for each other, so group-focused & bonding.

Mary said...

Thanks for this, Possumlady. I have always felt somewhat sad for elephants trapped and held captive at the circuses and zoos. I'll be thinking of Maggie and will you please keep us updated?

possumlady said...

Hi kgmom! Thanks for visiting. For me, I just happened to watch the PBS Nature program called The Urban Elephant. I'm not sure when it originally aired, but I saw a replay of it in 2001 or 2002, the last 15 minutes of the program were devoted to Shirley and her eventual release to the Elephant Sanctuary. I was sobbing at the end of the program. I immediately went online to the Elephant Sanctuary and have been a faithful contributor since.

Thanks Mary, I will keep everyone posted on Maggie's welfare.