Since the age of four, when he was dragged away from his mother and elephant family in Malaysia, Billy has been held in captivity at the Los Angeles Zoo. That he has been able to survive, for endless years of his life, both physically and emotionally, is beyond what any elephant should have to endure.
But Billy the elephant is not holding up well and despite pleas from experts and caring humans (including L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz ) the L.A. Zoo continues to put the viability of their exhibits ahead of the welfare of the animals for which, without them, they would cease to exist.
This was clearly expressed by actress, comedienne and elephant advocate Lily Tomlin:
You see, our Billy the elephant, a beautiful male Asian elephant with a striking pair of ivory tusks, has been exhibiting signs of extreme emotional distress for many years, if not immediately after his arrival to be held captive at the zoo. Billy will spend hours bobbing his head up and down***; interesting that behavior such as this is NEVER seen in wild elephants. Isn’t that telling us something?
***Watch “Billy’s Stereotypic Behavior” Video
And something only Billy can attest to is the pain and intimidation +++ he has endured from old-school training methods (bullhooks / shocks from electric prods) still used by cruel owners and handlers of captive elephants worldwide.
Fortunately these training methods were abolished at the L.A. Zoo before 2012 when Superior Court Judge John L. Segal “entered an injunction banning the use of certain disciplinary tools, including electric shocks and a barbed stick known as a ‘bull hook‘”.
The first push to rescue Billy was in 2009^^^ when the Los Angeles City Council heard arguments from both sides, those for and against the male Asian elephant’s captivity.
Leading experts such as Dame Daphne Sheldrick, of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Dr. Joyce Poole, of ElephantVoices, who have dedicated their lives to saving & rescuing wild elephants, spoke out on Billy’s behalf.
^^^ In 2007 actor Robert Culp et al filed a lawsuit to not only prevent construction of the now completed L.A. Zoo’s Elephants of Asia Exhibit but to “bar the zoo from keeping elephants on the grounds“.
From that moment on, it seems, our elephant Billy had a very real voice.
To be continued: Free Billy the Elephant From the “Not Happy Place” For Elephants, the LA Zoo : How Much Longer Must This Distressed Elephant Have to Wait? : Part 2
Images: CC Flickr : LA Zoo by Theresa B = Billy the elephant profile striking close up, Billy the elephant lying down with keeper, Billy the elephant and tree trunk. Billy the elephant LA Zoo in front of Rock Formation
by Castles Capes Clones & Billy the elephant in front of pool facing forward LA Zoo by Slices of Light
** RE: the Category AbZOOlutely Not** or The Controversy of Zoos & Others Keeping Elephants in Captivity. While there are some Zoos & others that demonstrate exemplary methods of elephant care, unfortunately, they do not represent the “lion’s share”.