Move Billy the Elephant out of L.A. Zoo, council committee says

Billy, an Asian elephant who has lived at the Los Angeles Zoo for more than three decades, is suffering from his time in captivity and should be moved to an elephant sanctuary, an LA City Council committee recommends.

The Human Resources, Audits and Animal Welfare Committee on Tuesday accepted a motion from Chairman Paul Koretz alleging that several of Billy’s health problems can be linked to his zoo environment.

“For many years prior to the opening of the current Elephants of Asia exhibit, he was housed alone in a small enclosure, where he was kept on hard surfaces that were considered not good for his feet and joints, and reportedly lacked adequate exercise and received stimulation.” the motion reads. “Billy has a long history of exhibiting abnormal (stereotyped) behavioral patterns that many elephant experts characterize as indicative of adverse mental health effects from this environment.”

Although Billy’s current 14-acre enclosure is a “better environment,” the application said, a sanctuary would provide more space and natural conditions.

The “list of ways Billy’s prolonged stay at the zoo was detrimental to his well-being,” Koretz noted, included numerous attempts to collect genetic material for captive breeding of elephants.

Several speakers, including actors Lily Tomlin and Cher, expressed support for moving Billy to a sanctuary during the committee meeting.

The Los Angeles Zoo said it “strongly disagrees” with the application’s characterization of the care and welfare of the facility’s Asian elephants.

“We have full confidence in the knowledge, skills and expertise of our entire animal care team, including those who look after our elephants,” the zoo said in an email to The Times.

Director Denise Verret said the zoo will support a study into relocating Billy. The committee’s recommendations call for the council to direct the zoo to relocate the elephant.

This proposal was not Koretz’s first attempt to put Billy in a sanctuary.

In 2018, Koretz and council member Mitch O’Farrell petitioned to have Billy relocated.

“Moving to a sanctuary is the solution, and there is evidence that philanthropy may be available to fund this, making it cost-effective for the zoo,” the application reads.

Koretz also submitted a similar application in 2009.

“Up to this point, the zoo has successfully waited for me,” said Koretz. Move Billy the Elephant out of L.A. Zoo, council committee says

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