Anchorage, AK -- This morning, PETA sent an urgent letter to Dr. Robert M. Gibbens, Western Regional director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) animal care unit, urging him to immediately launch an investigation into the medical condition of Maggie, an African elephant at the Alaska Zoo who was discovered lying down and unable to stand on Sunday. According to news reports, firefighters had to use straps and a winch to lift Maggie, who was at risk of death from the compression of her internal organs after lying on the ground for 12 hours. PETA is also asking Gibbens to make sure that Maggie's enclosure meets the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act and is appropriate for an ailing elephant.
Maggie is a solitary female African elephant. As a result of Alaska's frigid climate, she spends the majority of her time confined to a barren indoor enclosure with a concrete floor. Maggie has been alone since 1997, when an Asian elephant at the zoo died from a foot infection. Elephants who are forced to stand on hard surfaces often develop foot infections, which are the leading cause of premature death in captive elephants. PETA has urged the zoo to transfer Maggie to an accredited elephant sanctuary where she could live out her years on acres of natural habitat in the company of other elephants.
"By keeping her in prolonged isolation, the Alaska Zoo is depriving Maggie of two of all elephants' most basic needs-companionship and space-and now her health is obviously failing," says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. "If zoo officials care about her, all they have to do is let her go to a sanctuary where she can live out her life peacefully among friends."
For more information, please visit PETA's Web site SaveWildElephants.com.
PETA's letter to the USDA follows.
May 15, 2007
Robert M. Gibbens, D.V.M.
Director, Western Region
USDA, APHIS, Animal Care
2150 Centre Ave.
Building B, MS 3W11
Ft. Collins, CO 80526
Dear Dr. Gibbens:
Please consider this letter an official request for the USDA to investigate the following incident at the Alaska Zoo, USDA license # 96-C-0025, in Anchorage, Alaska.
According to media reports, on May 13, firefighters were called to the Alaska Zoo to help lift Maggie-the zoo's one elephant-to her feet. Apparently, Maggie lay down and, despite showing signs of wanting to stand, could not rise again on her own. She was recumbent for approximately 12 hours.
Previously, experts had evaluated Maggie's condition and found that she was in poor physical shape. PETA is concerned that Maggie may die if she goes down again.
Please ensure that Maggie's enclosure is conducive to providing necessary convalescent care as well as proper exercise for a physically unfit elephant and that the zoo is complying with veterinary care and minimum space requirements.
Please advise us of the USDA's actions in this matter. I can be reached at 206-367-0228 or LisaW@peta.org.
Captive Exotic Animal Specialist