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Proposal for city-run elephant sanctuary

October 21, 2008 6:15:32 AM PDT
An L.A. councilman will unveil his proposal on Tuesday for the first municipal elephant sanctuary in the U.S.Councilman Tony Cardenas wants the Los Angeles Zoo to close its elephant exhibit, which is currently under construction. Cardenas has said that elephants don't live in zoo, they die in zoos.

He says even the expansion won't leave enough room for the animals, and is instead proposing a city-run sanctuary in the San Fernando Valley. Cardenas said the sanctuary would be a more 'humane alternative.'

Cardenas says in the long run, his proposal will actually save money for the city, and will offer a healthier environment for the elephants. He said 13 elephants have died at the zoo since 1976, and two of them suffered arthritis and foot problems.

"Our city and our zoo would be the model for the rest of the country," Cardenas said.

The Council approved a $40 million expansion at the zoo back in 2006, and $10 million has already been spent upgrading the elephant enclosure.

"If this proposal on the part of Councilmember Cardenas has viability, I'm certainly willing to look at it. Again, he'll have to convince a majority of his colleagues on the city council," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Councilman Tom LaBonge and actress Betty White say the public deserves to have the chance to see the animal up close.

The Council will not be voting on the proposal for another four to six weeks, but if the proposal were to pass, animal activist Patty Shenker has said she would donate $100,000 to transport Billy the elephant, and then Bob Barker said he would match her donation so the city and its taxpayers would not have to pay for the transportation costs.


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