David McNew/Getty Images
Children watch Billy, the only elephant then at the Los Angeles Zoo, in his temporary exhibit after the Los Angeles City Council voted to keep Billy at the zoo and continue construction of the $42 million Pachyderm Forest elephant exhibit on January 28, 2009 in Los Angeles.
When the Los Angeles Zoo’s new Asian Elephant Exhibit opens next month on December 16, visitors will be able to contribute directly to elephant conservation efforts in the wild. That's not enough to convince animal-rights advocates that the new habitat is a good idea.
Critics say the zoo’s 6-acre pachyderm forest is too small to accommodate elephants. Plans include three of them to start: 25-year-old Billy and recently acquired Jewel and Tina, both in their mid-40s.
Zoo spokesman Jason Jacobs says officials spent $42 million to build the best exhibit possible. “The animals are free to come and go as they please. There’s soft river sand, which is a sub-street of the exhibit. There’s a varied topography. There’s a waterfall they can go underneath and wash themselves. Bathing pools..."
Jacobs says the exhibit draws strong support from the zoo’s million annual visitors and the 70,000 L.A. households that are members of the Greater L.A. Zoo Association.
Critics tried to stop the exhibit, but their lawsuit is tied up in court. The Asian Elephant Exhibit is scheduled to open a week before Christmas.