Anchorage, Alaska -- The highly anticipated Alaska Zoo Board meeting last night wrapped up without a decision about Maggie. Instead of a conclusion to the ongoing saga of Alaska's only African elephant, more questions were raised at the meeting.
It appears Maggie the elephant will not be going anywhere anytime soon. At a meeting called in response to a request by the Anchorage Assembly, the Zoo's Board said it needs more time to review public opinion, input from experts and options for Maggie's possible relocation.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Spokesperson Linda Whatne said she doesn't understand the decision.
"I don't think much more examination is needed to determine that Maggie needs to get out of the Alaska Zoo," Whatne said.
The Board has recently received thousands of responses from the public, but discussions about moving Maggie go back at least to 2002.
The Zoo Board conducted a comprehensive review regarding the same topic in 2004 and Zoo Director Pat Lampi was among those who voted in to relocate her.
When asked if he still believes Maggie should be moved, Lampi said he will withhold his opinion for the Board and staff.
The 28,000 acre Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., extended an invitation in 2004 to care for Maggie. Co-founder Carol Buckley said that invitation is still open.
"I think if they, when they really look at the reality of Maggie's life and the options open to her right now today, I think a caring and responsible board would definitely decide to move her," Buckley said.
The Board's president, Dick Thwaites, said he still needs more information.
"Really, we want to learn as much as we can about the process. We think that if Maggie does need to be moved to another facility, it probably has to be by air and that's a very expensive process," Thwaites said.
PETA reports it's been contacted by people who are willing to contribute financially to relocate Maggie. A week ago, the organization offered its own money toward the effort as well.
"We offered to send the zoo's director, Pat Lampi, all expenses paid to the elephant sanctuary in Tennessee, so he could see firsthand the kind of incredible opportunity that Maggie could have at one of the sanctuaries in the country. And that offer stands," Whatne said.
PETA said it has yet to receive a response to its offer.
The Board is scheduled to meet again in a week, with a decision not expected until August. Maggie will have those long summer days in the meantime.
Each of the organizations interviewed today noted the significance of the decision ahead of the Board. Should the board decide to move Maggie, Carol Buckley from the sanctuary said it will take a lot of work and cooperation to prepare her.
Buckley said air travel would prove to be the best for Maggie. If that is to happen, a container would need to be built specifically for her dimensions. She would also need to be conditioned to move into the box and to become comfortable with it. All parties involved want to ensure that Maggie is in optimal health for such a move.
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