As an educator and a docent at the Los Angeles Zoo who spent seven years observing its elephants, I was stunned and saddened by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John L. Segal's harsh words on the zoo's elephant exhibit.
I know the zoo's elephants, especially Billy, the 27-year-old Asian bull. I also know that the zoo is devoted to the elephants' well-being. And I know that, had the judge accessed the multi-year, ongoing research of the elephants' behavior at the zoo that volunteers like me document, he would have written a different opinion.
Seeing an elephant up close and in person has more impact on would-be conservationists than any textbook or video can. Elephants in zoos serve as ambassadors, raising awareness of their endangered plights, particularly in India — a place that most residents of Los Angeles will never visit.