Exclusive! WAN Interviews Kiersten Cluster, co-founder of Elephant Guardians of Los Angeles About New Elephant Sanctuary In Georgia & Billy The Elephant
While the world’s attention has understandably been focused on the Trump Administration recently lifting the ban on the importation of wild animal “trophies” from Africa into the U.S., a group of dedicated animal advocates are helping to save hundreds of elephants that are suffering in North American zoos. One of the most noted is Billy The Elephant, who has been held captive in the Los Angeles Zoo since 1989.
As the decades-long plight to “Free Billy” and relocate him to an accredited sanctuary continues, members of Elephant Guardians of Los Angeles and its non-profit partner, The Kerulos Center have been busy campaigning for Billy’s release, and raising funds to establish the All Bull Elephants’ Sanctuary (ABES). The Georgia sanctuary will be a refuge for Billy and other Elephants held in North America’s zoos and circuses across the country.
WAN talked exclusively with Kiersten Cluster, co-founder of Elephant Guardians of Los Angeles and Elephant Liberation Lead for The Kerulos Center, about the new sanctuary and the current status of the Free Billy campaign.
Based on the work of The Kerulos Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Gay Bradshaw, author of Elephants on the Edge, the philosophy of care at ABES will focus on healing the mental and physical wounds caused by years of captive exploitation. ABES’ goal is to restore elephant health, dignity, and self-determination to the fullest extent possible.
“For elephants such as Billy, a sanctuary such as this is the best option since both captive conditions and environmental degradation have made it impossible for them to return to their wild habitats,” Cluster told WAN, further noting that “while elephants are still in captivity, the philosophical and physical differences between sanctuaries and zoos are vastly different.”
Another important distinction, explained Cluster, is that “unlike zoos which perpetuate the forced confinement of wild animals, ABES’ ultimate goal is to help put an end to the use and abuse, including captive breeding, that results in animals needing to find refuge in a sanctuary in the first place.”
Nearly one year ago, on April 19, 2017, Billy’s release was again brought in front of the public eye when Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz introduced a Motion to the Los Angeles City Council calling for Billy the Elephant to be moved to an accredited sanctuary and for the end of captive elephant breeding in Los Angeles.
On January 24, 2018, a Council Committee voted to appoint a panel of three independent veterinary medical professionals to conduct a complete evaluation of Billy’s physical and mental health, as well as his living conditions at the zoo.
The zoo’s description of Billy claiming that he’s in “excellent health” and “happy in his captive environment,” became even more suspicious when the exploitation-of-animals-for-profit facility inexplicably opposed the medical evaluation ordered by the Committee.
The Motion to Free Billy is still pending before the Los Angeles City Council Arts, Parks and River Committee.
“As with Ringling Bros. & Barnum Bailey Circus, the time has come when the public will no longer tolerate other outdated modes of animal exploitation such as zoos and marine parks,” said Cluster. “The City of Los Angeles has the opportunity to take a leadership role in this movement by passing the Motion to Free Billy.”
Ways You Can Help:
Contact the Los Angeles City Council and urge them to pass Motion No. 17-0453, release Billy from the Los Angeles Zoo and the end of captive elephant breeding in Los Angeles. Contact information for council members is available HERE!
Sign a Care2 petition to free Billy from his lonely life at the Los Angeles Zoo HERE!