I recently was given an excellent article from the Anchorage Press written about Maggie a while back ("The elephant in the room," February 17, 2005). It seems the issue of whether or not Maggie should be in Alaska has been something that's been ongoing since the 1980s. I also understand that the folks from Anchorage would refer to me as being from "Outside."
I grew up in a small town called Elmira alongside a community of Mennonites. Old Order Mennonites are a religious sect who wear all black and their clothes date from the 1800s (similar to the Amish). They drive buggies, wear bonnets and hats and have no electricity in their homes. Their choice of lifestyle is about living out their faith. Those of us who lived in the town felt protective of these good people, and became upset when Outsiders came on a Sunday afternoon with cameras and took pictures of these folks going to church as if they were a tourist attraction instead of real people. However, in time I came to view the tourists as people who wanted to appreciate and understand the Mennonite way of life, and be impacted by what they saw. I eventually came to see that although a nuisance, as long as they were respectful, their presence wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
I understand as an Outside person I will be seen as being an irritant, but I hope in time my presence relative to the needs of Maggie will eventually be looked at as something that "isn't so bad."
My understanding of zoos is that they keep animals captive so as to bring an appreciation of them to society and through education help protect their wild counterparts. Captivity of an animal brings significant responsibility for its care and comfort. Having a single, female African elephant living in Alaska in a concrete cell with no elephant companionship, limited outdoor access due to climate, and a treadmill for exercise suggests we are not providing adequate care and comfort to this intelligent, highly social animal.
It is my respectful request that the Alaska Zoo either retire Maggie to an elephant sanctuary or transfer her to a zoo where she can have a more suitable climate and environment and the company of other elephants.
Julie Cook / Vancouver, British Columbia