August 26, 2007
PAWS Makes Proposal for Maggie
Out of Alaska: Zoo Seeks a Move South for Elephant
New York Times
Published: August 26, 2007
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ANCHORAGE, Aug. 25 (AP) — A proposal is on the table to move Alaska’s only elephant out of the state, a plan that has found favor with both the Alaska Zoo and animal rights groups.
The Alaska Zoo wants to move Maggie, a four-ton elephant, to a more hospitable climate, most likely in the lower 48 states. The Performing Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS, located in Galt, Calif., has offered to take the elephant, named Maggie, and pay for her relocation costs, including air transportation, veterinary evaluations and professional training to prepare her for crate travel, zoo officials said Friday.
The group would also pay for Maggie’s keepers to travel with her to her prospective new home, 30 acres where she would live with nine other elephants. It has also offered a $100,000 grant for animal habitat improvements at the Alaska Zoo if the relocation deal goes through.
“It’s a very generous offer from them, but our main concern is finding the best place for Maggie,” said Pat Lampi, the zoo director. “PAWS is a well-known facility and they do a lot of good work.”
The cost of flying Maggie, who weighs 8,000 pounds, is a significant obstacle, with some estimates approaching $200,000, Mr. Lampi said.
He said Friday that PAWS was “on the short list,” but officials from a competing group were also expected to come to Alaska soon.
Dick Thwaites, president of the zoo board, said that within weeks officials would decide what to do with Maggie.
Elephants of Africa Rescue Society in Salinas, Calif., is another group being considered, Mr. Lampi said. But critics said that organization practiced inhumane training methods and exploited its animals.
Catherine Doyle, campaign director for In Defense of Animals, based in San Rafael, Calif., said Tuesday that the Performing Animal Welfare Society would be a good choice.
Zoo officials have said they are considering several locations, and officials from at least one of the facilities have suggested the elephant stay in Alaska through the winter.
In May, calls for Maggie’s departure intensified after she fell twice and needed to be hoisted to her feet by fire crews. Mr. Lampi said she may have been suffering from a bout of colic.