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CALIFORNIA BRIEFING / LOS ANGELES

Councilman seeks elephant haven instead of zoo exhibit

October 22, 2008|Carla Hall

Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas announced Tuesday that he would ask the City Council to outlaw the keeping of elephants at the L.A. Zoo and instead establish a city sanctuary for pachyderms.

For the Los Angeles Zoo, a city agency, that's one more bump in the road to building its new $40-million elephant exhibit.

Cardenas said he believes the city can find a suitable 50- to 100-acre parcel, perhaps in the San Fernando Valley.

"First and foremost, this is a humanitarian effort," said Cardenas, who now joins the ranks of animal welfare advocates who say it is cruel to keep the giant mammals in enclosures that may measure a few acres but don't allow them to roam for miles as they do in the wild.

Zoo officials countered Cardenas' morning announcement at City Hall with a news conference inside the gate already erected at one end of the grounds of the new exhibit, which they said was about 30% complete. Zoo Director John Lewis said the varied features of the 3 1/2 acres of exhibit space would offer enrichment for as many as six or seven Asian elephants.

"Just down the hill here is going to be a pool where the elephants can wade and waddle in the mud," he told reporters. "Behind you all is an area where there's going to be a waterfall where they can shower themselves. In the front of the exhibit will be a deep pool where the elephants can swim and submerge themselves."

-- Carla Hall

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