Following an impassioned public outcry, the Alaska Zoo board has decided to relocate the state's only elephant to another state under certain conditions, the board president said Wednesday.
"Every effort will be made to expedite a move if and when all the factors for a successful move are favorably addressed," board president Dick Thwaites said in a prepared statement.
Because there are so many criteria to meet, it's impossible to predict how long it would take to move Maggie, a 25-year-old African elephant who arrived in Anchorage as an orphaned baby. Advocates want her moved to a warmer location, preferably to a sanctuary where she can roam with other elephants.
The board voted late Tuesday on the relocation, citing various conditions to be met, including enlisting independent veterinarians to ensure that Maggie is fit for travel and the stress of being moved.
Under the board's decision, possible sites also must be selected by zoo staffers and approved by the board. Animal transporters will work with the zoo and handle matters such as obtaining a crate for Maggie's move.
Zoo officials said they could not yet make a reliable price estimate on the effort, including the cost of air and ground transportation.
Advocates active in pushing for a relocation include In Defense of Animals and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The zoo has procrastinated too long, said veterinarian Elliot Katz, president of San Rafael, Calif.-based In Defense of Animals. He said he's greatly concerned about Maggie's condition after viewing recent photographs, in which she looked like she had lost weight.
"I'm pleased the zoo is considering the need to do this, but they need to do it as quickly as possible because they have endangered her life," he said. "I just hope they haven't waited too long. There is no doubt in my mind that having her stay there is a death sentence."
Calls for Maggie's relocation were fueled last month when she lay down on her side in her stall twice last month and couldn't get up on her own. The Anchorage Fire Department was called in both times to get her back up.
Vets believe Maggie might have had colic, prompted by a change in her hay.