Los Angeles Zoo Listed As #1 On IDA’s 10 Worst Zoos In North America; The Fight To Free Billy The Elephant Continues

Photo Credit: Elephant Guardians of Los Angeles

In Defense of Animals’ annual list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America has exposed heartbreaking abuse of male elephants at zoos across the country. Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens has been named #1 on the 10 Worst Zoos list for decades due to chronic stress that has sapped Billy the elephant’s body and spirit. Sadly, his feet were left untreated for 8 months due to a case of prolonged musth.

Actor and musician Harley Quinn Smith is calling for Billy the elephant to be released to a reputable sanctuary.

During a period of 8 months, when Billy was in musth, a condition in bull elephants characterized by aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones, the zoo staff was not able to keep up with his foot care, which is essential to the welfare of elephants in zoos. His daily pacing over ground steeped with urine and feces is creating deep infections that could soon lead to fatal foot disease.

Musth is often exacerbated in zoos and is a prime reason why bull elephants are isolated, lonely, and frustrated in zoos. Billy has also endured numerous highly invasive procedures to extract sperm for breeding elephants in other zoos, but all attempts failed.

The dire situation for the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens’ lone Asian bull elephant, 38-year-old Billy, catapults this zoo to the number one spot as the worst zoo for elephants in North America. Due to his constrained, unnatural existence in a puny-sized exhibit, Billy’s body and mind further declines each passing year. This is evident from his severe zoochotic bobbing and swaying, a clear sign of brain damage.

Now it appears that the elephants are enduring noisy and disruptive building work, which is torture for animals who communicate through vibrations in the ground. Yet no updated zoo enclosure can reverse Billy’s brain damage — confinement is always a horrendously deprived environment for an elephant.

It is time for the LA Zoo and the LA City Council to do the right thing for this sad ghost of an elephant and send him immediately to a reputable sanctuary, together with the zoo’s elderly female, Tina. A motion to release Billy to a sanctuary was introduced by retired Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz and seconded by Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, so this is the perfect time to advocate for his release. This year is the eighth time the LA Zoo has made the 10 Worst Zoos list, and we hope for Billy’s sake, it’s the last.

“An army of fans, including Cher and Lily Tomlin have pleaded for Billy’s release for years,” said Courtney Scott, Elephant Consultant for In Defense of Animals. “There is no excuse to keep Billy locked up for the rest of his life and repeat the tragedies of Jewel who died last year and Shaunzi who was euthanized in early January after being taken from the wild and locked up for almost her entire life.”

In Defense of Animals’ List of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in 2023:

  1. Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Los Angeles, CA.

  2. Houston Zoo, Houston, TX.

  3. Albuquerque BioPark Zoo, Albuquerque, NM.

  4. Denver Zoo, Denver, CO.

  5. Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium, Kansas City, MO.

  6. Dallas Zoo, Dallas, Texas

  7. Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma City, OK.

  8. St Louis Zoo, St Louis, MO.

  9. Zoo Tampa, Tampa, FL.

  10. Oregon Zoo, Portland, OR.

Weekly demonstrations are held at the Los Angeles Zoo to Free Billy. On Sunday, January 28, In Defense of Animals, Elephant Guardians of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles For Animals will co-host a rally to Free Billy.

Content courtesy of In Defense of Animals. Help them continue fighting for animals, people, and the environment by making a donation HERE!

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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