By Jonathan Carvalho
NEW BEDFORD — The City Council's Committee on Appointments and Briefings voted Tuesday to take "no further action" on the petition to retire Buttonwood Park Zoo's elephants Ruth and Emily.
Councilors heard from Keith Lovett, the zoo's director, as well as Joyce Rowley, amember of Friends of Ruth & Emily.
Councilor-at-large Naomi Carney said the idea of retiring the elephants to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., needs to be further investigated. Ward 4 Councilor Dana Rebeiro said she was in favor of retiring the elephants because they do not belong in a zoo, they belong in a natural habitat. When pressed by Ward 2 Councilor Steven Martins, Rebeiro said she had not been to the zoo but that she had done "research" on elephant behavior and agreed with Rowley that the elephants' movements constituted distressed behavior.
According to Lovett, the movements of the elephants is what he calls "anticipatory behavior." Described by both sides as rocking back and forth and shown to the committee in a video furnished by Rowley that shows the elephants about to be fed treats, Lovett compared it to having a dog who jumps and wags its tail when its almost time to eat.
Ward 6 Councilor Joseph Lopes said Rowley did not have zoological expertise; when asked about her education by Lopes, Rowley said she had a bachelor's degree in geology and a master's degree in community planning.
Lovett said the zoo does not make money on the elephants, and that zoo spends money to care for them because they are more expensive to keep than the money they bring into the zoo. He said the zoo wants to keep them because it is in the best interest of the elephants.