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Maggie:  Home Makeover, Elephant Edition
Letters / Anchorage Press / December 17, 2005

After months of construction in the Alaska Zoo's concrete-and-steel elephant house, visitors can once again view Maggie, North America's most controversial pachyderm.

The solitary African elephant has been the subject of countless news stories and "Free Maggie" bumper stickers, as zoo critiques spawned a movement to move her somewhere warmer and give her the company of other elephants. Meantime, the Alaska Zoo is constructing the world's first elephant treadmill and renovating her quarters. Maggie hasn't set foot on the treadmill yet, but she should soon, assistant zoo director Pat Lampi said while giving a tour of  Maggie's new home Monday, December 12. Asked how soon, Lampi said workers were just finishing the treadmill control panel.

So it could be next week?

Lampi shrugged - he's heard the question quite a few times. "It could be - maybe... Dianne Sawyer, at ABC, has a producer calling us every week."

The zoo has no plans to allow anyone but Maggie's trainers in the room when she's initially introduced to the treadmill, Lampi said, because Maggie's trainers don't want any unnecessary distractions. "Even I won't be going in there," Lampi said.

Maggie's home has doubled in size and much of the new part has in-floor heating. There's also new forced-air heating and air conditioning that's computer-controlled, and two new furnaces. And Maggie's front yard has been altered so that she'll have a walking path around a pond, where she can visit with two wing-injured swans and some geese and ducks.

Maggie: Hi - what are you?

Duck: I'm an elephant! What are you?

Maggie: I... I'm not sure.

- Scott Christiansen

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