On 28th January 2024, animal rights activists protested outside of the Los Angeles Zoo calling for the release of Billy, a captive Asiatic elephant who has spent more than 30 years in an enclosure at the Californian zoo. Activists from Guardians of Los Angeles and Los Angeles for Animals want Billy to be released to an elephant sanctuary. A Los Angeles city committee voted to send Billy to a sanctuary, but the resolution has not been approved by the LA City Council yet.
Paul Koretz, LA City Councilman, said to CBS News, “The few elephants that have been removed from this kind of situation and placed into a sanctuary often will recover mentally and physically…After all the years he’s spent at the LA Zoo, he deserves to be an elephant near the end of his life.”
Two elephants already died at the zoo in the last 12 months, including Shaunzi, a 53-year-old Asiatic elephant. The severe confinement was one of the reasons that the zoo has been listed by the Defense of Animals as one of the ten worst zoos for elephants. Shaunzi was born in Thailand, where she spent much of her early life in a circus, and arrived in the US to live a captive life first at the Fresno Chafee Zoo and then at the LA Zoo. Of all the unfortunate victims of the zoo industry, elephants are the species most recognised by the scientific community to suffer more in zoos, so many animal welfare organisations that may not necessarily be vegan and advocate for the abolition of zoos nevertheless campaign for the end of keeping elephants in zoos. Now that elephant sanctuaries exist where elephants live better lives, calling for the release of zoo elephants to sanctuaries is a reasonable demand.