Anchorage, Alaska -- After months of debate and a public outcry from animal rights groups, Alaska Zoo Board Chairman Dick Thwaites said the Board has picked what it hopes will be Maggie the elephant's new home in the Lower 48.
"The concern we all have is that whatever we do with Maggie that it is a better environment for her than the environment hear at the Alaska Zoo," Thwaites said.
Thwaites said the Board has also picked a standby location, in case their first choice for Maggie doesn't work out. The Zoo isn't publicly naming either location yet.
"The problem that we've had is that we can't say what it is until they agree, and there are some conditions attached, one is that in all instances we will go to the location and review it, and that will be done expeditiously," Thwaites said.
Even though the Zoo won't name the locations, there was one hint. Former game show host and animal lover Bob Barker was in Anchorage two weeks ago with a group called PAWS. PAWS made an offer to pay Maggie's expenses at the group's animal sanctuary in Northern California.
"Certainly the one that has done its own press conferences is in the mix for the couple that we're looking at," Thwaites said.
Perhaps the biggest decision involves the timing of Maggie's move. Thwaites recently said he doubted whether Maggie would be moved before winter. Wednesday night, he said Maggie could be on the way to her new home in a little more than a month.
"That's going to be done as soon as possible, hopefully before winter sets in, that will be a schedule determined pretty much by Maggie," Thwaites said.
The developments are just what Paul Joslin with Friends of Maggie wanted to hear.
"I'm delighted, I think they will find the whole of the Anchorage community delighted with the fact that they're planning to move her before we get ourselves into winter. I don't know how she would do if she were to stay here another winter," Joslin said.
The zoo said staffers will now travel to their top choice within the next week to try to make the final arrangements. Then it will be up to veterinarians to decide if Maggie is able to travel.
Maggie has been undergoing special training for several weeks to prepare her for traveling and is reportedly doing very well.
Contact Mike Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org