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Judge Agrees With IDA, Says Los Angeles Zoo Elephants Are Not Healthy, Happy, Or Thriving

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Judge Agrees With IDA, Says Los Angeles Zoo Elephants Are Not Healthy, Happy, Or Thriving

From In Defense of Animals (IDA)
July 2012

On July 24, 2012 California Superior Court Judge John L. Segal released a scathing decision in a lawsuit regarding the elephant exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo. He concluded that the elephants are not "healthy, happy or thriving." The judge said the zoo's new $42 million exhibit is injuring the three elephants who live there, Billy, Tina and Jewel, but stopped short of closing the exhibit. Instead, the judge ordered the zoo to make changes such as increasing exercise and rototilling to soften the soil in the exhibit, and banning bullhooks and electric shock devices.

IDA has been working for the last five years on this lawsuit, providing valuable expertise and experience. Elephant Campaign Director Catherine Doyle testified during the six-day trial as a rebuttal witness.

The judge wrote:

The evidence at trial shows that life at the Los Angeles Zoo for Billy, Tina, and Jewell is empty, purposeless, boring, and occasionally painful. Their lives are supervised, managed, and controlled by zoo employees who appear to be in the dark about normal and abnormal behavior of elephants, in denial about the physical and emotional difficulties of the elephants they manage and whose lives they control, and under the misconception that the elephants prefer to live their lives in an exhibit with human companions rather than with other elephants.

elephant los angeles zoo
Tina and Jewel at the LA zoo

Sadly, the issues raised in the lawsuit and in the judge's decision are not limited to the Los Angeles Zoo, but are shared by zoos around the country, including the same delusional approach to managing elephants, believing that abnormal repetitive behaviors are a sign of contentment, like a dog wagging a tail; that use of the bullhook is no different than a leash on a dog; and that elephants can thrive in tiny exhibits in which they are emotionally and socially deprived.

IDA will build on this landmark decision in our work for elephants. With your support, we will continue to work for Tina, Jewel and Billy until they are released from the zoo. We also fight to protect those in the wild. Some of our activities that you have funded include:

There’s so much more work to be done. Please make a contribution today so IDA can continue to make a difference. Together, we can help elephants survive. Thank you!