By Gerry Payette
I would never have imagined that some day I'd be writing about protecting elephants. But here I am. And what prompted my need to categorically write down my thoughts on this subject could best be summarized as some sort of epiphany I experienced aimed at understanding our need to maintain zoos for our enjoyment.I've visited many zoos in my life's journey. Most notably were zoos in Bern, Switzerland, Frankfurt, Germany, and the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. And, oh yes ... the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford.
If you would ask me if I enjoyed going to these zoos, I would tell you quite frankly that it was more out of curiosity than enjoyment — as I'm sure curiosity motivates most people's interest in going to view any wild animals up close. But I always felt a sense of sadness and outrage that we as human beings would jail God's creatures for our pleasure.
And this brings me to the plight of the elephants, Ruth and Emily, at the Buttonwood Park Zoo.
We should all be outraged by these elephants' living conditions. Sure, the zoo officials and caretakers are doing their best with the "tools" they have in trying in making the lives of these two pachyderms and the rest of the "inmates" as pleasurable as possible. What I cannot understand is why the obvious hasn't happened yet by making the elephants' remaining years more comfortable by moving them to a better place out of state.
According to a Guest view by Nicole Meyer, director of the Elephant Protection Campaign, In Defense of Animals in San Raphael Calif. ("Elephants need more help than they've gotten," Jan. 25), "As long as Ruth and Emily remain within the small confines of the Buttonwood Park Zoo, their chronic health problems will only worsen. Both elephants suffer from captivity-caused problems including chronic foot disease and arthritis, aggression and stereotypic behavior. Now that Ruth has suffered frostbite, she will be more vulnerable to the cold temperatures of New Bedford."
When Ruth escaped into the cold one frigid night because the door to her pen was not properly secured and she developed frostbite, the question begs to be asked, how many more incidents must these captive animals endure?
"Animal rights activists ... have long argued that Ruth and her fellow elephant, Emily, should be sent to a sanctuary in Tennessee," writes Ariel Wittenberg in the Standard-Times. But Zoo Director Keith Lovett and other city officials contend that they oppose the idea of removing those elephants to a better environment. At the same time, they say that the zoo will not accept any more elephants in the future.
Then, basically, their argument is: Let's keep these elephants, who can bring in needed revenue by zoo patrons, as long as we can until they eventually die, and the heck with their quality of life.
We can't seem to find a consensus on global warming, the Keystone pipeline and the "gridlock" in Washington. We can't even find a decent compromise between the New Bedford's Teachers Union and the superintendent. Can we, at least, solve the dysfunctional arrangement for our two unfortunate elephants by making their remaining years as pleasurable as possible at an elephant sanctuary in the state of Tennessee?
Let's do the right thing.